Space Law

Who Really Owns the Deathstar? (and other important thoughts)

Its almost December 18, 2015 - which is going to be EPIC thanks to the midnight release of the long-awaited Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  Since Episodes I, II, and III became infamous for  lackluster effects and poorly written storylines, its really as if Star Wars fans have been waiting since 1983 for a reboot worthy of our attention.  From what I can see in reviews, this movie fills the 30+ year void

What does this have to do with law?  Absolutely nothing.  Except it kind of does... 

Space law is actually a real thing and its pretty mesmerizing to read about.  From who owns asteroids, comet, stars, and planets to colonizing the moon, people have already begun to form a body of precedent in the form of international treaties.  In brief summary, all these things are owned cooperatively among nations but this will probably eventually change as we continue to explore outer space.  Who owns the Deathstar?  Probably a lot of people. 

The cleverly named "Outer Space Treaty" was signed in 1967 by the USA, the UK, and the USSR.  Currently, 104 countries are now part of this treaty which essentially says space and all the celestial bodies within space are intended for peaceful use only and cannot be used for military endeavors.  It also makes it clear that space exploration and research is done for the "benefit of all mankind" (which is sexist so I'm going to call it "humankind"). This means a nation-state cannot lay claim to the moon as its next military base or store its nuclear warheads on Mars.  It also prevents manifest destiny from expanding into space (looking at you, Vader - (( and you, Russia )) -). 

There also exists an equally cleverly named treaty called the "Moon Treaty" that deals specifically with- you guessed it- our beloved moon.  This makes celestial bodies the property of the so-called "International Community" (a.k.a. those nations that signed the Moon Treaty) as opposed to open real estate for the Trumps, Buffets, and Bransons of the world.  As a practical matter, this also means the United Nations body of international law would apply to the moon and other mysterious space things when it comes to the who, what, where of what we can do with them.  This treaty is also similar to the Outer Space Treaty in that it states the moon will not become a military base anytime soon or a storage unit for WMDs. This treaty also prevents privatization of space lands and forbids altering the environment of a celestial body, which should make the Mars 100 endeavor really interesting.  Who is curiously absent from this treaty? Russia. 

So who really owns the Deathstar?  Probably a lot of people.  Since the Deathstar is not a true celestial object but a man/droid-made object mocking a celestial object, it is not subject to the space treaties mentioned above.  This means its probably more like a ginormous International Space Station- only this one is being used for pure evil a la Darth Vader.  In reality, the Deathstar is probably subject to its own treaty that sets out its parameters (do evil, kill the Force, find Chewbacca and eat him) and its probably owned by a conglomerate of investors with a sh*t ton of money and unbelievable technology.  Good thing this doesn't even matter... yet.... OR DOES IT?!