National Aeronautics and
Washington, DC 20546-001
Apr –9 2001
Reply to the Attn of: GS
Mr. Gregory Nemitz
Dear Mr. Nemitz:
This letter responds to your letter of March 22, 2001, providing "further clarification" of your "ownership status" of the asteroid 433 Eros. Your letter was in response to my request to you, by letter dated March 9, 2001 for citation to "…any legal basis for Orbital Development’s claim to own Eros or to any legal significance of a filing with the Archimedes Institute." My letter also stated: "Should you provide facially reasonably material supporting your claim, NASA will send it, along with your original letter, to the Department of State for guidance.""
Your letter fails to cite any such legal basis for the claim you have asserted. Moreover, it contains several statements indicating substantial recognition on your part that a private claim of ownership of a celestial body is legally questionable at best. Those statements include the following:
It is evident from these and other statements in your letter that your claim was filed for the primary, if not sole, purpose of calling attention to the absence of private property rights on celestial bodies and to your view that existing international treaties should be interpreted or amended to remedy this situation. Indeed, on the evidence you presented, it would be exceedingly difficult to ascertain any credible legal basis for allowing for your purported claim to 433 Eros or for referral to the State Department for advice and guidance.
Your individual claim of appropriation of a celestial body (the asteroid 433 Eros) appears to have no foundation in law. It is unlike an individual’s claim for seabed minerals, which was considered and debated by the U.S. Congress that subsequently enacted a statute, The Deep Seabed Hard Mineral Resource Act, P.L. 96-283, 94 Stat. 553 (1980), expressly authorizing such claims. There is no similar statute related in outer space.
Accordingly, your request for payment of a "parking/storage fee" is denied. In taking this action NASA does not need to and does not take any position on whether the requirements of the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 apply to private individuals, or whether the Treaty should be amended for this purpose. Your claim depends on the establishment and validity of your ownership of asteroid 433. On the basis of the evidence provided, including your admission that the Archimedes Institute does not have legal authority to confer property rights, you have not established a legal right to any payment. Therefore, NASA has no authority to use it appropriated funds to pay your claim.
Edward A. Frankle
Office of General Counsel
Commercial and International Law Division