How do we decide who owns the moon?

Entrepreneur Richard Garriott on the ISS in 2008
  1. Space vehicle
  2. Summary:
    1. The Explorers Club sponsored a video conversation where they tackled the question: who owns the moon
    2. Entrepreneur and President of the Explorers Club Richard Garriott (pictured above) jokingly claimed part of the moon’s surface.
    3. In 1993, Garriott purchased both the Soviet Union’s Luna 21 lander and its Lunokhod 2 rover for $68,500 at the Sotheby’s space auction in New York
    4. “I purchased Lunokhod as an object that is still sitting on a foreign celestial body. So, it’s the first time an object was sold that is not on the Earth,” Garriott said.
    5. The Soviet Union’s Luna 21/Lunokhod 2 landing occurred on Jan. 15, 1973.
    6. Lunokhod 2 operated for about four months capturing pictures of the moon’s surface.
    7. Lunokhod 2 became inoperable on May 9 and sent its last telemetry information home on May 10, 1973.
    8. Garriott says the Lunokhod 2 is still in active use. “Even though the batteries on it [Lunokhod 2] have failed, there is a set of reflective mirrors that are still used to this day by a variety of telescopes around the world … bouncing lasers off of it … used to detect the Earth-moon distance and some wobble of the moon.”
    9. The Lunokhod 2 rover traveled around 25 miles. Garriott jokingly claims he owns this entire trackway, as well as all of the land surveyed by the rover’s cameras.
    10. Both Russia and the U.S. have claimed surface area on the moon that is off-limits to incoming traffic.
    11. Garriott says his chunk of land could be a “welcome mat” for private rovers in exchange for some sort of economic exchange.
  3. Cybersecurity Concerns:
    1. The space vehicle is the most important aspect of this article, however, it is operable, so there is nothing to hack. As such, there are no cybersecurity implications related to this particular rover. The bigger issue at hand is how do we decide who owns the moon and how should we think about cybersecurity in this context? Garriott claimed ownership over the land that his rover had covered on the moon.
    2. If threat actors such as nation-states, cyber-crime groups, terrorists, and etc. were to hack a space vehicle on the moon, how do we decide who owns the land? Would these threat actors have a reasonable claim to the land? More broadly, how should breaches in cybersecurity be dealt with legally, and do they impact an entity’s claims on the moon? As space sectors around the world grow, these questions will need to be answered.
  4. Critical Systems:
    1. Because the space vehicle in question is inoperable, there are no critical systems in terms of technologies. Instead, there is the more abstract critical system of how we establish rules on the moon. The system for how we establish rules for space in space will only become more important as the space sector becomes more privatized. The system for how we establish these rules and enforce them is underdeveloped and should be a point of focus.