FAA Allowing Companies To Start Claiming Territory On The Moon

As if splashing corporate names and logos all over our stadiums, arenas and every billboard on every highway and byway wasn’t enough, the Federal Aviation Administration says it’s allowing companies to start claiming landing and launching spots… on the moon.

To be clear, this wouldn’t mean that a company would actually own that spot, or be able to run ads on it like, “The Man in the Moon! Brought to you courtesy of Comcast!” (whew).

Instead, this preliminary step by the U.S. government would allow companies to simply stake claims through an already existing licensing processing for space launches, reports Reuters.

In a previously undisclosed letter obtained by Reuters from the FAA to Bigelow Aerospace, the agency says it’s aiming to “leverage the FAA’s existing launch licensing authority to encourage private sector investments in space systems by ensuring that commercial activities can be conducted on a non-interference basis.”

Translation: Bigelow could set up one of its proposed inflatable habitats on the moon, and have the expectation that it’s the only company with a stake on that territory, as well as any areas related to it for mining, exploration, and other things. It’s kind of like the pioneers in the wild west getting some protection from claim jumpers, in other words.

As Bigelow puts it to Reuters, the FAA’s letter “doesn’t mean that there’s ownership of the moon. It just means that somebody else isn’t licensed to land on top of you or land on top of where exploration and prospecting activities are going on, which may be quite a distance from the lunar station.”

This won’t be happening just quite yet, however, as the FAA’s letter notes that there are concerns from the U.S. State Department that the regulatory framework as it stands right now “is ill-equipped to enable the U.S. government to fulfill its obligations” under a 1967 United Nations treaty, which, in part, governs activities on the moon.

That treaty requires countries to authorize and supervise activities of companies and other non-government entities that are operating in space, including the moon. It also prohibits nuclear weapons in space, and doesn’t allow nations to claim celestial bodies as their own. Any space exploration and development should benefit all countries.

“We didn’t give (Bigelow Aerospace) a license to land on the moon. We’re talking about a payload review that would potentially be part of a future launch license request. But it served a purpose of documenting a serious proposal for a U.S. company to engage in this activity that has high-level policy implications,” said the FAA letter’s author, George Nield, associate administrator for the FAA’s Office of Commercial Transportation.

There are other issues to be worked out over lunar property and mineral rights, topics that were brought up in the 1970s in a sister UN proposal called the Moon Treaty, that was signed by only nine countries, the U.S. not included. In other words, there are a lot of countries that want to put national companies on the moon for commercial reasons, and all of those will want to be included in any regulations.

Exclusive – The FAA: regulating business on the moon [Reuters]

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