February 03, 2003

Who Owns the Debris?

Once upon a time, I pondered Who Owns the Moon? This morning, Dineen and I fiercely debated (as married attorneys are wont to do during the morning grooming ritual) Who Owns the Shuttle Debris?

Ernie has pointed out that selling shuttle debris on eBay would be a federal crime... but that assumes that shuttle debris is federal property. I think it's not so clear cut. Yes, the shuttle was federal property, but what happens when that vehicle, upon its destruction, rained debris over three or more states, some landing on private property? There's at least one case I recall from property class where space debris (a rock) became the property of the owner or the land it fell on. [Here's a reference to one such case] And of course, when Skylab and Mir fell, many folks tried to sell pieces of that space wreckage. There must be international treaties and such addressing the issue. What do they say?

(I won't even touch on the question of whether there might be different definitions of "property" in Louisiana than anywhere else in the nation, since it would seem to be a federal and international issue, not a question of state law.)

Posted by wasylik at February 3, 2003 10:13 AM | TrackBack