New Study Calls for Recognition of Private Property Claims in Space

Washington, D.C., April 2, 2012 – 150 years ago in 1862, amidst the bloodiest war in our nation’s history, the Lincoln administration had the foresight to pass two historic pieces of legislation: the Pacific Railway Act and the Homestead Act. The first opened up the American West for potential settlers by encouraging railroads to build from coast to coast. The second offered title to 160 acres of land to anyone who was willing to homestead and farm it for five years. Together, after the war, these acts resulted in an explosion of economic growth of the young nation, and the opening of vast new resources for America and the world.

But half a century after the first human went into space, that new frontier remains barren, despite the wealth of potential resources available. Current international policy actively discourages the settlement of space.

Today, the Competitive Enterprise Institute released a new study by Adjunct Scholar Rand Simberg: Homesteading the Final Frontier: A Practical Proposal for Securing Property Rights in Space. Simberg argues that the U.S. should recognize transferable off-planet land claims under conditions such as those outlined by the proposed Space Settlement Prize Act, which Simberg renames the Space Homesteading Act.

A legal private property regime for real estate on the Moon, Mars, and asteroids could usher in a new era of space exploration at little or no cost to the U.S. government. As the study explains, space is rich in valuable resources. But without off-planet property rights, investors have little incentive to fund space transportation or development. Simberg proposes that the U.S. begin to recognize off-planet land claims of claimants who

A) establish human settlements on the Moon, Mars, or other bodies in the solar system;

B) provide affordable commercial transportation between the settlement and Earth; and

C) offer land for sale.

These claim rights would transform human perception of space. Currently, the international community treats outer space as an off-limits scientific preserve instead of what it could be: a frontier of possibilities for exploration, resource development, and human settlement.

Many legal scholars claim that both the 1967 Outer Space Treaty (OST) and the 1979 Moon Treaty outlaw private property claims in space. Simberg argues that the Outer Space Treaty only precludes land claims by sovereign nations—not by individuals or corporations. He also argues that the U.S. should repudiate the Moon Treaty (to which it is not a signatory), which does explicitly outlaw such claims.

Advocates of the expansion of property rights off-planet have commended Simberg for releasing a study that draws attention to the issue and provokes much-needed debate.

“Property rights are at the core of personal freedoms,” said Gary C. Hudson, President of the Space Studies Institute. “There’s no reason to believe that they are any less important off the Earth than they are here on Earth.”

Robert Poole, Director of Transportation Policy at the Reason Foundation, said, “Ten or fifteen years ago, private-enterprise space travel was still the stuff of science fiction, so property rights in space was a non-issue. That is no longer the case, and we’d better start getting serious about such property rights if we’re serious about opening the space frontier.”

Terry C. Savage, member of the Board of Directors of the National Space Society, said, “With his proposal to solve the critical problem of establishing property rights in space, Rand Simberg has produced an extensively researched…and entirely readable…explanation of the history and underlying issues involved, followed by a simple, elegant solution. Anyone who understands the importance of humanity leaving the Earth should read and support this proposal, as I do.”

Mr. Simberg will present his study at a Capitol Hill briefing on Thursday, April 5th at 11 a.m. at the Rayburn House Office Building, Room 2325. See here for more information on the briefing and to RSVP.

>> Read the full study, Homesteading the Final Frontier: A Practical Proposal for Securing Property Rights in Space.

To interview Rand Simberg, contact Christine Hall at [email protected] or 202-331-2258.