Sunday, May 22, 2011

Interview: Alan Wasser & Space Property Rights Textbook

The National Space Society posted last week about a new Law School text book that includes a chapter on space property rights written by Alan Wasser and the Space Settlement Institute.

I first interviewed Alan Wasser a year ago and later built a business case on a lunar facility operating under Alan’s proposed land claims legislation.

With the release of the new textbook, I wanted to catch up with Alan so he could give you an update:

Q. For those that don’t know, what is "Land Claims Recognition" and how does it relate to space property rights?

Alan Wasser: There is one very high value, zero volume product that already exists in space, just lying around waiting for us to exploit it: Real Estate.

Land Claims Recognition would allow private Lunar settlements to claim some Lunar real estate and sell portions to people back on Earth, serving as a revenue source to fund private enterprise space settlement. No need to set up a factory in space, No need to mine it. No need to haul it back. Just land, set up a permanent settlement, claim it, and start selling the surrounding land to investors and speculators back on Earth to pay back the cost of developing affordable transport.

The US government has now officially decided not to go back to the moon, philanthropists cannot afford it, and there is nothing else on the moon or Mars that could be profitable enough to justify the cost of private enterprise developing safe, reliable and affordable human transport.

Therefore, Land Claims Recognition is now clearly the only way we are ever going to see a significant return to the moon, but this time to stay.

Q. You provide a legal defense of these land claims. Talk to me about your efforts.

Alan Wasser: Land Claims Recognition would allow individuals or companies to appropriate and sell lunar land, - but ONLY after they have already established a true permanent human settlement on the land they are claiming.

It is the settlement, itself, (and only the settlement) that can make a claim under the Outer Space Treaty. No Earth government can claim the land or give it to them. The only thing governments can do (or not do) is pass laws about how their courts should treat sales of Lunar (or Martian) property to their citizens - "recognizing" the legitimacy of the settlement's claim and therefore, the validity of the sale.

When I started this debate, some argued that I was wrong about the legality of land claims recognition under the Outer Space Treaty, etc. So Doug Jobes and I took the time to establish an airtight legal case for it. In its winter 2008 edition, SMU Law School's "Journal of Air Law and Commerce" published our article describing land claims recognition in detail and establishing the legal basis for it, complete with 182 footnotes. The Journal is the oldest scholarly periodical in the English language devoted to the legal and economic problems of aviation and space, and is the most prestigious law journal in its field.

You can read the article here. For a less legalistic version of how Land Claims Recognition work (and the answers to 25 frequently asked questions) see here.

Q. And now Land Claims Recognition has been included in a new law text book?

Alan Wasser: Yes! The fact that lunar land claims will now be taught in law schools is an even more convincing demonstration that, though there may always be some dissent, the general legal community seems to have accepted Land Claims Recognition as being fully in accord with existing international law.

The textbook is from Westview Press: "International Law", Silverburg, ed., (ISBN 978-0-8133-4471-3). "Space Settlements, Property Rights and International Law: Could a Lunar Settlement Claim the Lunar Real Estate It Needs To Survive?" is Chapter 13, pages 275 to 299.

Q. When we last spoke, you were marshalling an effort to approach Congress with legislation consistent with your articles. What is the status of your legislation?

Alan Wasser: The AIAA Space Colonization Technical Committee (SCTC) recently sent two teams to Congress to lobby for a Land Claims recognition law. They got a good reception but no comittments. It will need much more support from the Space community to actually get introduced and passed, setting off the next space race.

Space Business Blog Footnote and full disclosure: Over the last year I have become more and more convinced by the mission of the Space Settlement Institute, so earlier this month I joined their volunteer staff as a policy analyst.

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