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Sustainable colonization and exploitation of the lunar surface, Mars, or near by asteroids is still decades away. However, NASA, the Obama Administration, and other agencies around the world have shown a growing interest in establishing a human presence on the moon, mars, and beyond.

Unfortunately, the legal regime concerning the use of the Moon and other celestial bodies, which is necessary to further development in outer space, is largely unsettled. One important unsettled area is the ownership status of celestial bodies and whether private property rights on those bodies are permissible and desirable.

This Paper takes the view that private property rights on celestial bodies is permissible and desirable if celestial bodies are considered terra nullius-incentivizing development-and private property rights be defined in terms of a social obligation norm. This coupling of concepts will satisfy the desires of both proponents of celestial development and proponents of outer space as the common heritage of all mankind.

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Space law, Space colonization, Celestial bodies, Outer space