One Nation or All Nations: Who Should Make the Laws of Outer Space?
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For text of the Model Implementation Agreement and related papers and articles, please go to http://www.spacetreaty.org
“Space is a warfighting domain. . . . It is not enough to have an American presence in space. We must have American dominance in space.” - Vice-President Mike Pence, announcing the U.S. Space Policy Directive.
The Trump administration has taken steps to unilaterally extend U.S. law and economics into outer space. The recent Executive Order and proposed Artemis Accords have denounced the Moon Treaty and granted U.S. mining interests property rights in any materials that they extract, going so far as to establish exclusive "safety zones". The newly-proposed Space Force would be charged with protecting such economic interests.
Granting such rights on the Moon is an act of sovereignty that is currently prohibited by international law. The Outer Space Treaty, adopted in 1967, states that "Outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means." The follow-up treaty proposed by the United Nations (the Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, commonly called the Moon Treaty) allows such commercial development, but only within the framework of an international agreement. The declared purpose of the Treaty is "to promote on the basis of equality the further development of co-operation among States in the exploration and use of the moon and other celestial bodies" and "to prevent the moon from becoming an area of international conflict." It also calls for the “orderly and safe development” of space resources and the sharing of benefits with less-developed countries. It has so far been adopted by 18 nations, but not the United States or any other space-faring nation.
We have reached a moment in humanity's history when an international agreement is essential. In December 1968, our view of the world changed, literally. As Apollo 8 rounded the Moon, the astronauts on board were suddenly overwhelmed as humans saw the Earth rising above the lunar horizon for the first time. The picture taken at that moment showed our beautiful planet hanging in the vastness of space. Humanity as a species began to realize that we are all one, living together on a fragile planet hurtling through the cosmos.
But even though no borders were visible, war and suffering continued to wrack our home world. In the half-century since, people have begun to lose faith in their governments, their private institutions, even in humanity itself. Every day we wake up to news of worsening climate change, increasing social unrest, and rising international conflict. To that has now been added the threat of war in outer space. The people of Earth are beginning to despair, wondering if there is anything they can really believe in. They are losing hope.
The mission of the Space Treaty Project is nothing less than to restore that hope, to give the people of our planet a future they can believe in by helping the nations of the Earth to build a common future. To counter the despair of war and violence and neglect. We have a unique opportunity to set an example and create a new future for humanity, to build that shining city on a hill that will light the way for all.
It has been 500 years since the world has had such an opportunity to start anew. At that time, we chose to perpetuate slavery, military conquest, and economic exploitation, all of which caused misery and countless wars. And when the Industrial Revolution came along, we placed profits ahead of people, resulting in economic and environmental catastrophe. Much of humanity stopped believing in our ability to control our own destiny.
We can change that. But we must act now. There will be only one time when humanity leaves its home world, only one chance to create a new pattern that will lead each person, and all nations, to their best destiny. That time is now. Please join in this effort to restore hope and create a better world – a better universe – for all of us.
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