When I was a kid, one of the first Robert Heinlein books I read was a fascinating story about a guy who bought up all the land on earth which lay directly under the orbital path of the moon. Then, by virtue of some outdated property and mineral rights descriptions, laid a claim to the moon. It was called “The Man Who Sold The Moon.”

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Well, there is a real chance that China is ramping up to claim ownership of some or all of the moon.

If they do, it will precipitate an international crisis and could even create military tension between China and other nations that have agreed to keep the moon as an international property.

In reality it will probably be a good thing if China does precipitate this sort of international crisis. One of the reasons there is so little desire to exploit lunar resources is that the current international treaties don’t leave much room for staking claims on the moon. In the end it is the ability to exploit resources and colonize land that motivates people to colonize new lands, and that will be as true of the moon as any other potential colonization site. If property rights do become available and nations start carving the moon up, our prospects for true interstellar space flight will have become measurably more likely.