You Can’t Take the Sky from Me

Jordan L. Couch
Now is the time for the world to reexamine the Outer Space Treaty and decide what private rights nations should grant to their citizens.

Now is the time for the world to reexamine the Outer Space Treaty and decide what private rights nations should grant to their citizens.

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Take me out to the black,
Tell them I ain’t comin back.
Burn the land and boil the sea,
You can’t take the sky from me.

—The Ballad of Serenity

On the Next Fest stage in Los Angeles, California, on September 13, 2007, Google announced the Lunar XPrize, a competition that encouraged private entities to land a rover on the moon. Across the country at NASA’s headquarters in Washington D.C., attorneys in the General Counsel’s office were suddenly faced with legal questions few attorneys could have ever imagined: What happens if a private company accidentally destroys the Apollo 11 landmarks on the moon? What if it contaminates bodies in space destroying their scientific potential? Can private entities own portions of space?

Eleven years later, the answer remains unclear because of untested laws conceived half a century apart.

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