Planting a Flag
When a flag is planted in an undiscovered or unclaimed territory, the country who planted the flag is said to have taken ownership. This makes you wonder, does the United States own the moon? Who owns the moon? One of the most iconic photos ever taken is the photo of Buzz Aldrin standing next to the United States flag that was planted when they landed on the Moon. Does this mean that it is now an American colony?
A European Habit
Claiming new national territories was originally a European habit that applied to non-European parts of the world. The Portuguese, Spanish, French, Dutch, and the English all created substantial colonial empires for themselves. The European notion of planting a flag as an act of ownership quickly stuck, and it became accepted worldwide as part and parcel of the law of nations. But what does this mean for the Moon?
The Space Race
When the astronauts landed on the moon, they had more on their minds than ensuring ownership for the United States; however, others knew that it would raise political issues. During the space race, the United States knew that planting a flag on the moon would cause problems, legally speaking. Some worried that this action would cause international disputes that would be harmful to the United States space program and the United States’ interests.
Not the Intention
When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon and planted the flag, they were in no way doing it to claim ownership for the United States. NASA and the United States government were also not trying to do this; therefore, the moon is not a United States territory.
The First Outer Space Treaty
In 1967, the United States, the Soviet Union, and may other space fearing nations got together and signed the 1967 Outer Space Treaty. Those involved in the treaty all agreed that the colonization on Earth was responsible for armed conflicts and great human suffering over the last centuries. These countries were determined not to repeat the mistakes of the past when it came to someone taking legal possession of the moon. It was decided that the moon wouldn’t belong to just one country; it would be accessible legally to all countries. This treaty was signed two years before the first manned moon landing.
The Purpose Of the Flag
Because the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 was signed two years before Buzz Aldrin planted the U.S. flag on the moon, it is clear that the flag wasn’t planted to claim legal rights. Instead, it was done to honor the United States taxpayers and the engineers who made it possible for Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, and the third astronaut, Micheal Collins’ mission possible. During the actual moon landing, the men brought a plaque that said that they came in peace for all mankind. They also spoke the words to let the world know that it wasn’t a giant leap for the United States, it was a giant leap for mankind, which meant that what they did on that day was for everyone in the world.
Sharing With the World
When the astronauts came home with soil samples from the moon and moon rocks, the United States proved again that they weren’t trying to take possession of the moon or anything taken from it. They did this by sharing these samples with the rest of the world. The U.S. gave foreign governments and scientists from all over the world access to what was brought home for the moon so that they could do their own independent studies. This was very impressive because, at the time, we were in the midst of the Cold War with Russia, and the United States also gave Russian scientists access to the soil and rocks.
What About Asteroids?
Two United States companies have been targeting asteroids for the purpose of mining their mineral resources. This leads people to wonder if these companies have the right to mine the asteroids. According to the treaty, no government can claim any celestial body as a territory; however, nothing is mentioned about the mining and profit of a celestial body.
Countries Not Involved In the Treaty
The only problem with the treaty that was signed decades ago is that not every country in the world signed it. This makes many people wonder what will happen if these countries decided to try to make the moon legally theirs? Do we need to write up a new treaty and get every country involved?
Currently, nobody, in particular, owns the moon. It is one place that is owned by everyone on the planet. Hopefully, it stays this way. If a country not involved in the treaty were to try to take possession of the moon, it could result in the wars that they were trying to prevent back when the agreement was first signed.