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Extraterrestrial property rights: A cosmic catastrophe lurking in the sidelines

Kaur, Perveen (2015) Extraterrestrial property rights: A cosmic catastrophe lurking in the sidelines. Honours thesis, Murdoch University.

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In 1966, the United Nations Legal Subcommittee drafted the widely accepted Outer Space Treaty to regulate the use and exploration of Outer Space. Following the Cold War and successful launch of the Russian Spacecraft Sputnik I in 1957, this treaty formed the preliminary framework for all the subsequent Outer Space Treaties, including the failed Moon Agreement, which attempted to detail the use of the Outer Space Resources.

Although the Outer Space Treaty expressly precludes the ‘sovereign appropriation’ of the Moon and Other Celestial bodies, it remains unclear till today whether these exclusions extend to private ‘non-governmental’ entities. More importantly, the Outer Space Treaty fails to establish any positive property rights regime on the use of extra-celestial land or minerals in Outer Space.

As the existing property rights regime on the Moon and other celestial bodies remains clouded by great uncertainty and ambiguity, there is an urgent need for reform. This thesis asks the fundamental question: Is the existing property rights regime effective in protecting the property rights asserted by private non-governmental entities in Outer Space? Rejecting the Common Heritage of Mankind concept adopted in the use and exploitation of the global commons, Antarctica and the Deep Seas, this paper critically re-evaluates the Grotius’ seminal work Mare Liberum (The Free Sea). Adopting a Lockean liberal stance on the common ownership and use of property, this paper will call for the implementation of a less restrictive private property rights regime applying a ‘new’ public trust doctrine.

Publication Type: Thesis (Honours)
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Law
Supervisor: Brohmer, Jurgen
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