Access to the Moon's resources is up for grabs - a debate that is growing globally. Credit: ESA - AOES Medialab

Access to the Moon’s resources is up for grabs – a debate that is growing globally.
Credit: ESA – AOES Medialab

A European forum is addressing the issue of who owns the Moon?

There is a growing debate within scientific, entrepreneurial and policy circles regarding lunar resources and access to those resources on Earth’s nearest celestial neighbor.

Experts on these issues are being brought together by Google Lunar XPRIZE at the EuroScience Open Forum (ESOF) 2014, Europe’s largest general science meeting.

The discussion is taking place today in Copenhagen, Denmark. 

Stakeholders in space

To date, only three nations – Russia, the U.S. and China – have “soft-landed” a spacecraft on the Moon, although other nations have launched successful lunar orbiters. 

But the stakeholders in space are changing: lunar exploration is no longer the domain of Governmental agencies alone. 

With activities like the Google Lunar XPRIZE and private-public partnerships stimulating a New Space industry, commercial organizations have business plans and are attracting investment to develop low-cost, regular, reliable access to the Moon within a decade. 

However, the Moon’s resources are not distributed evenly over the lunar surface.  The majority of water on the Moon is concentrated in ice deposits in or near deeply shadowed, dark craters at the poles. Therefore, access to these sites is vital, if the Moon is to be used as a future base and stepping-stone for exploration of the rest of the solar system.

Rare metals, minerals and water

According to a Google Lunar XPRIZE press release:

“New Space entrepreneurs are looking to the Moon’s supplies of rare metals, minerals, and – perhaps most importantly – water-ice to sustain their business in the long term. Water and organics are key to the development of life-support systems for any future human settlement on the Moon. In addition, water can be broken down into hydrogen and oxygen that can be used for rocket fuel.”

“With only one sixth of the Earth’s gravity and no atmosphere, the Moon is an ideal launch site for large, heavy spacecraft needed to support manned missions to Mars and even further out into the solar system,” the release states.

World strategy

According to one of the participants in the discussion, Bernard Foing, the Executive Director of the International Lunar Exploration Working Group (ILEWG) and Senior Exploration Officer at ESA/ESTEC:

“The Outer Space Treaty specifies that no country or citizen owns the Moon. With international cooperation towards a world strategy for the exploration and utilization of the Moon, we can exploit responsibly scarce lunar resources and still preserve sites of historic and scientific interest. Precursor landers can be operated in a coordinated robotic village, with in-situ use of resources, done with respect. This would prepare a sustainable and smart path towards humans living off the land in international lunar bases.”

For more information on this discussion, visit:

One Response to “Debatable Question: Who Owns the Moon?”

  • I looked for further details of the discussion but found none – can you give me a link? The quote from Bernard Foing implies he is content with the Outer Space Treaty specifying that no country or citizen owns the Moon but I know there are those who argue for private property in space and I should be interested to see where discussion on this point is going. Delighted to have discovered this blog.

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