This Day in International Law — October 10

By:  Alexander Brock

On October 10, 1967, the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies entered into force.

Also known as the “Outer Space Treaty,” the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, establishes international space law.  The treaty was signed by the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union on January 27, 1967, and today there are 102 countries party to the treaty, with an additional twenty-six who have signed, but not yet ratified.

The treaty comprises additions to the Declaration of Legal Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in 1963.

The treaty includes articles such as a non-proliferation stipulation, in which parties to the treaty agree not to put weapons of mass destruction into orbit around Earth or install them on any planet or other celestial body, along with a ban on any military base or other installation on celestial bodies, including the Moon. The treaty states that space exploration is the “province of mankind,” to be performed for the benefit and in the interests of all countries, and that the use of the Moon and other celestial bodies shall be for “peaceful purposes.”

One interesting recent development concerning the treaty is in the domain of property rights: the Outer Space Treaty, in Article II, states that, “[o]uter 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.” However, in early 2014, NASA began accepting applications from private enterprises seeking to mine rare materials from beneath Moon’s surface, such as Helium-3, in a program it calls CATALYST (Lunar Cargo Transportation and Landing by Soft Touchdown). The international reaction to NASA’s move has renewed debate about Article II’s implications for lunar property rights, which many believe are necessary to attract the level of investment required to grow private sector space exploration, mankind’s next step in the final frontier.

Alexander Brock is a J.D. Candidate at Berkeley Law. He is a student contributor for Travaux. 

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