Site hosted by Build your free website today!



Richard M. Westfall

Galactic Mining Industries, Inc., 4838 Stuart St., Denver, CO 80212-2922 303-433-1978


Declan J. O’Donnell PC

United Societies In Space, Inc., 499 Larkspur Dr., Castle Rock, CO 80104 303-688-1193


Gary Rodriguez

sysRAND Corporation, 15306 Foxglove Court, Parker, CO 80134  303-840-0797  



ABSTRACT:  Telepossession is a relatively new legal concept, which has been applied to maritime salvage in the case of the SS Central America. Herein, we propose the utilization of this concept to establish title to asteroids accessible from Earth orbit. We propose the acquisition of Stony/Iron and Iron Asteroids, and Cometary materials. Possession of these resources will facilitate the arrangement of financing and provide in-situ materials for the development of extraterrestrial infrastructure and habitats. Telepossession is the utilization of robots to perform the tasks, which men would perform to establish title and ownership of space resources. In performing tasks such as men would perform at a remote site, the telepresence of a research group can have legal standing to establish a-priori domain over a property, and establish a form of legal possession.


Telepossession was legally established in the case Columbus-American Discovery Group Inc. v. Atlantic Mutual Ins. Co., 1992 (974, F. 2d 450-4th Circuit 1992). In this case the Columbus-American Discovery Group Inc. found the shipwreck SS Central America off the east coast of the United States. Telerobotic equipment was able to establish a video monitoring link with the wreck site. By the common law principle of Pedis Possessio, (to walk on is to establish ownership), the Columbus-America Discovery Group was able to establish in a salvage court, legal possession of the resource. This precedent did not require physical possession, just telepresence at the site.


We propose the use of Telepossession probe spacecraft to establish a live video link to the asteroid or other extraterrestrial resource. In addition, we propose performing tasks on the asteroid such as: an assay of the composition of the resource and beneficiation experiments on the asteroid. Through our robotic activities and the principle of Pedis Possessio we will establish First Possession of the resource. A lawyer named Bruce Marks first made our company aware of this legal principle, and showed us how it applied to the establishment of property rights on extraterrestrial resources. Through the establishment of Telepossession, leveraged financing can be arranged to provide the company with the resources needed to develop the extraterrestrial resource into a viable business asset. Construction of  extraterrestrial infrastructure and habitats will ensue.

UN Treaties dealing with property rights in space will be considered. Formulation of new space law will be suggested, with an eye to fostering the commercial development of space infrastructure and habitat communities.


The specific design and capabilities of Telepossession probes will be presented. Legal development of the concept of Telepossession will be examined. Examination of beneficiation experiments to be performed on extraterrestrial resources will be presented in a separate paper to be given at this conference. (Beneficiation of Asteroidal Materials in Space)


Leveraging of Financing:


The commercialization and colonization of space has slowed to a near standstill. The United States cannot fund the development of the Earth as a space-faring society on it’s own. All nations must participate in this great quest. No other nation can fund such activity at this time. Historical precedents may lead the way to an understanding of the proposed Telepossession leveraging of funding.


In the past, great colonization movements have depended on the increase of the wealth and fortune of those who undertake such activities. Excellent examples of this can be drawn from the history of the United States. Two specific examples will be traced here, although many other examples may be cited and studied.


First, the Louisiana Purchase by President Thomas Jefferson in 1803 from France nearly doubled the size of the United States. This doubling of the country was accompanied by the increased ownership of property with monetary value. The Lewis and Clark expedition of 1804 was chartered to explore and itemize this great acquisition. New farmlands, mineral resources and other opportunities were opened up to the “Manifest Destiny” of the nation. Using the common law principle of Pedis Possesseo, private property rights were established.  New land owners were able to provide for their families and have enough left over to establish towns, cities and states. Without the First Possession of new lands, the growth of the nation would have stunted and Britain and Spain would likely still have ownership of parts of the United States.


Second, the Gold Rush of 1849, which started at Sutters Mill in the present-day California, provided new ownership of not land, but resources. Gold provided the impetus for the development of the west coast of the United States and the rest of the nation. In the case of the gold rush, people from not only the eastern United States, but the entire world, flocked to California to get in on the action. This gold rush was a major worldwide event which helped not only the United States, but people and nations everywhere.


The current global situation needs the stimulation to be gained by the colonization of the new frontier, space. When nations from all over the globe are able to increase their national wealth through Telepossession of extraterrestrial resources, the wealth will foster healthy development in such places as Asia, the Middle East and Africa. When peoples from these underdeveloped areas are able to feed, clothe, and house their populations there will be a flowering of humanity as never before seen. When the people of the world can focus on personal development, education and social maturation we will all be better off. Terrorism is nurtured by the hardships of starvation and strife.


Telepossession is recognized:


The case of the Columbus-American Discovery group involves the recognition of Telepossession as a precedent in law. Declan O’Donnell of United Societies In Space has examined this precedent and come to the following conclusions. The case involves the competition between two types of possessory title, “salvage services” v “finders titles”. The case summarizes a rule of law that favors salvage over and above those of finders title. It assumes that robotic possession applies in either case to establish possession. This issue was not challenged, so the law appears clearly settled.


In space law the issue is what do you end up with after you telepossess – a) a space object, or b) a space resource. Clearly, you are entitled to “fair compensation” for salvaging a space object, such as a satellite. But that analysis is not at all clear as to resources.


If, on the other hand, company A has a common law estate on a space resource and that becomes telepossessed after a loss of the asset, then company A’s rights by Telepossession could count, legally.


Pedis Possesseo and telerobotics:


The question of common law estate status must be clarified. The recognition of Telepossession through robotic means at a remote site becomes a method of establishing standing in a court of jurisdiction and facilitates the establishment of a common law estate. Some would argue that the UN treaties prohibit private ownership of in-situ space resources, yet common law estates were set up under monarchies, even though the original title of the crown was not in question.


In this paper we will discuss two methods of varying complexity to establish a common law possessory estate in space. Telepossession can be established by either the proposed Telepossession Probes of Galactic Mining or the more simple yet elegant method envisioned by Gary Rodriguez, set forth at the end of the paper.


Telepossession through probes performing tasks as a man:


Galactic Mining proposes the use of Telepossession Probes consisting of a lander and a relay spacecraft, which rendezvous with an asteroid in space. The lander performs the tasks of assay of composition, manipulation of material, beneficiation of the resource and telemetry to the relay spacecraft and the operators of the probe on Earth. The relay spacecraft performs the tasks of observation and remote sensing of the space resource, and telemetry from the Earth to the lander and from the lander to Earth. Briefly we will look at these tasks for each of the components of the Telepossession Probe set.


The lander will assay the composition of the landing location of the probe by various chemical and radiological methods. The lander will manipulate the asteroid by landing and hard-mounting to the surface of the asteroid, and the simple collection of regolith and or the core sample drilling into the asteroid. The lander will beneficiate the resource by taking some of the asteroid and converting it to a type of product. This beneficiation technology, which we propose to use involves the vapor digestion of the metallic fraction of the asteroid and the production of a nickel product by Chemical Vapor Deposition onto or inside of some mandrel surface (an inflatable sphere to make a pressure vessel for example). The lander will conduct uplink telemetry to the relay spacecraft and when possible directly back to Earth. The lander will respond to downlinks from the relay spacecraft and when possible directly from the Earth in order to control its functions on the surface of the asteroid.


The relay spacecraft will remain in proximity to the asteroid and continuously observe the asteroid in order to establish its condition and position. The relay spacecraft will, through remote sensing methods determine an overall composition and mass of the asteroid – i.e. the estimated valuation of the asteroid. The relay spacecraft will carry on telemetry with the ground-station on the Earth to report on the asteroid, the lander, the composition and other conditions of the asteroid. The Earth will send telemetry to the relay spacecraft in order to control telerobotic operations of the lander and to control the operations of the relay spacecraft.


These operations of the Telepossession Probe set clearly establish by Pedis Possesseo a form of title to the asteroid which will be used to arrange the financing required to salvage or develop the space resource.


A simpler and more elegant method:


Gary Rodriguez of sysRAND Corporation suggests the following method of establishing possession of space resources in his appended write up below. This method is the preferable method for the nations and peoples of the Earth to establish title to a great number of different space resources. The need for all of the Earth to gain in this endeavor can be more clearly met when all peoples have the ability to arrange funding for their own programs and progress. His write-up is presented in his own words.





By: Gary Rodriguez


Investment in space has the usual risks associated with technology, aerospace, unproven markets and the like.  To which risk must be added the capriciousness and arbitrariness of  regulatory agencies such as NASA, EPA, DoD, Department of State; any of which can deliberately, or even passively, obstruct a venture.


There emerges an interest in methods for declaring title to extra-terrestrial real estate in the form of asteroids, moons, LaGrangian points, minerals, eclipses, gravity wells, orbits of advantage, etc.  Treaty and convention have and will establish acceptable norms for laying claim to various forms of real estate.


Telepossession has been invented as such a device which could provide foundations for the creation of investment capital for space.  Title to real estate often underpins risk capital and allows many a risky "scheme" to emerge into the landscape of mainstream industry and commerce.  The backers of an investment can always lay claim to the real estate should the venture fail.


A relatively low-cost mechanism for identifying registered properties is to "tag" the target body with a RADAR Transponder package.  The device secures itself to the surface of the target body to avoid falling "off" in low-gravity situations.  Later, when the transponder is interrogated with an encoded RADAR sweep the unit transmits a string of bits with unique identifiers imbedded. 


Planting transponders does not have the same effect as planting trees, but transponders may help seperate the forest from the trees by augmenting the usual optical methods of locating celestial bodies.  Considerably less time will be necessary to develop a positive location for a "tagged" asteroid, for example.  The transponder is also helpful for the docking of development payloads under automatic control.


The transponders therefore constitute an improvement on the claim made by a absentee landlord  or telepossessor.  A relatively inexpensive claim mechanism, but a claim nonetheless.  After all, entire terrestrial continents have been claimed based upon a mere piece of cloth affixed to a stick.

Next-Level Effects

The demand for exploitable properties may give rise to a service which can swing past comets or asteroids and "tag" them with transponders which are then sold at auction or under contract.


Another service of interest is related to real estate title services.  Optical confirmation of the transponder's actual location could be of large value to the owners, developers and lessors of space property.


A few RADAR beacons can be situated in solar orbits which allow them to periodically emit the interrogative pulses at high power levels for a wide swath of space.  Any vehicles can then "listen" for the encoded returns, much like campers sharing a gas lantern in the dark.  Such vehicles may optionally "piggyback" their own IFF signatures after the returns of any properties in their neighborhood, informing navigational authorities of their proximity and location.


A telepossessor should be required to maintain continuous transponder operation for ninety days before his registration would be approved.  A telepossessor would further have to be allowed perhaps as much as three years to replace a failed transponder to allow for backlogs and mission transit times for replacement packages.  It is possible that "dirty tricks" by those seeking to encroach on a registered patent or patent application might include electromagnetic pulse (EMP) to silence a transponder.




Telepossession of space resources can inject wealth and capital into the global village by allowing private firms and nations to benefit from the colonization of space. Both methods of establishing Telepossession of space resources have their advantages and disadvantages. The method of Telepossession Probe sets is more resilient to legal challenges, yet the simpler and more elegant method of sysRAND can afford a more widespread benefit to the Earth as a whole.


Hopefully this paper will promote discussion of these topics in a much broader audience and will result in hastening of the colonization of space.




Columbus-American Discovery Group Inc. v. Atlantic Mutual Ins. Co., 1992 (974, F. 2d 450-4th Circuit 1992). In this case the Columbus-American Discovery Group Inc..


Horrell, Drew F.T. "Telepossession is Nine-Tenths of the Law: The Emerging Industry of Deep Ocean Discovery." 3 Pace Yearbook of International Law 309-362 (1991).



Dean Lueck, “First Possession”

The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics and the Law (1998) 

pp.14 Telepossession  Ref. Pp. 30

pp. 16 Pedis Possesseo  Ref. Pp. 33


Boudewijn Bouckaert, “Original Assignment Of Private Property”

Prof. Of Law, Dean

Center for Advanced Studies in Law and Economics

University of Ghent,

Faculty of Law

pp. 12 Telepossession Ref. Pp. 16


Richard M. Westfall, “Storyboard describing Telepossession”

Galactic Mining Industries, Inc. Website





Free Web Counter