By Rebecca Lowe | Reason
Displayed near a triceratops skull in a small gallery in Cambridge, England, you can find a bit of moon rock on sale for just under $40,000—or you could have found it for sale, if only you’d arrived sooner. A red “sold” sticker is attached to the label that identifies the rock as a “lunar sphere.”
Never mind, you think—there’s plenty more where that came from.
It’s not as simple as that. That space rock represents a rare opportunity, similar to a vegetarian making a moral exception for roadkill. It wasn’t deliberately extracted from the moon by someone claiming it for themself or planning to sell it to you. Something randomly bashed into the moon approximately 4.5 billion years ago, and a particular bit of moon debris got knocked loose and landed in the Sahara Desert. If you wanted to buy a piece of moon rock that’s currently up there orbiting Earth, you’d have to break international law.
Except, surely, for the complication that international law only binds states. This points us to one of the most frustrating things about space law: It’s all very debatable. Big players make big claims about rules’ core features, with mutually exclusive implications.
“Recognizing private property rights in space would indeed drive innovation but it’s riddled with ethical problems. A more just distribution of space is necessary rather than allowing for a ‘first-mover advantage’ to the few billionaires.”
Shruti Gurudanti, Rose Law Group partner and director of corporate transactions