The United States FAA has reportedly taken the first steps required to allow private firms to stake territorial claims on the moon, despite a 1967 United Nations treaty that governs activities on the lunar surface.
According to documents obtained by Reuters, the FAA intends to leverage its existing launch licensing authority in order to allow U.S. companies to stake claims on the moon’s surface. In a late-December letter to Bigelow Aerospace, the FAA expressed its intent to encourage private sector space system investments by ensuring non-interference in lunar commercial activities.
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Experts assert that this means Bigelow could theoretically establish one of its proposed inflatable habitats on the moon, and reasonably expect exclusive dominion over that region, as the Daily Mail reports. A representative for Bigelow explained to Reuters, however, that the FAA’s decision doesn’t amount to ceding ownership of territory on the moon.
“It just means that somebody else isn’t licensed to land on top of you or land on top of where exploration and prospecting activities are going on, which may be quite a distance from the lunar station,” they noted.
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According to George Nield, associate administrator for the FAA’s Office of Commercial Transportation and author of the letter, the document recognizes the private sector’s need to protect assets on the moon, should they be established there.
“We didn’t give (Bigelow Aerospace) a license to land on the moon. We’re talking about a payload review that would potentially be part of a future launch license request. But it served a purpose of documenting a serious proposal for a U.S. company to engage in this activity that has high-level policy implications,” he said.
The FAA’s letter also noted State Department concerns that the current U.S. regulatory framework leaves the nation in a poor position to fulfill its obligations under a 1967 United Nations treaty that governs activities on the moon.
While some UFO researchers have already claimed to see bases on the moon, as the Inquisitr previously reported, Bigelow plans to establish a series of outposts around 2025, at an estimated cost of $12 billion. The firm will begin testing its habitats aboard the International Space Station this year, with an eye toward establishing free-flying orbital outposts for paying customers.
With other companies, like XPrize contender Moon Express, intending to return samples from the lunar landscape in the near future, the FAA’s preliminary action may lay the early groundwork for private development of the moon.
[Image: NASA via Twitter/ SpeedReads]