Where Does Space Law Come From?
Starting in the 1950’s, a number of our world’s leaders thought it might be a good idea to agree to take a rational and responsible approach to the exploration and use of outer space. Together, these nations signed a number of treaties for space laws to promote positive space policies.
What Are the Space Laws?
- No Fighting. First, they agreed that space should be a peaceful place and should not be used for certain military activities. As such, everyone agreed not to place military bases or weapons of mass destruction in orbit, on the moon, or on other planets or celestial beings. Further, bombing the moon is specifically prohibited.
- Everybody Shares. In rare form, everyone agreed that space belonged to everybody, and that no nation or group of nations could claim ownership of any part – including the moon and resources found on the moon.
- If It’s Not Yours, Leave It Alone or Give It Back. Everyone agreed that each country would maintain jurisdiction over the people and things they put in space and that they wouldn’t meddle with each other’s stuff. Also, if a country’s person or thing falls from space and lands in someone else’s country, that country must peacefully return the person or thing back to the originating country.
- If You Break It, You Fix It. If a person or thing falls from space and causes damage to another country, the country responsible has to compensate the damaged country.
- Save the Astronauts and Warn About Possible Dangers. There was a consensus that our celestial explorers are “envoys of mankind in space” and should be provided with all possible assistance. Further, they agreed to cooperate and let each other know about any dangerous space discoveries.
- Everyone Abides. The space laws don’t just apply to governments; they also apply to private actors. Nations are responsible for enforcing space laws in their country. Thus, the United States will be responsible for ensuring that Google’s eventual expansion to the moon is peaceful and not proprietary.
Space Law Fights!
You may not be surprised to learn that with every new technological advancement, people have new reasons to argue about space laws. In fact, there is already legal controversy over Google’s proposed activities.
While some space launches have stirred up controversy in the past, today’s space law debate is whether private companies are allowed to go mine asteroids for commercial purposes. The current rule on the matter seems to indicate that no one can own stuff from space. However, some people (including Google execs) believe that space law does permit private actors to hunt and sell space rocks.
Future Space Laws
In all likelihood, the harmonious space law policies of today may need some adjustment as the capabilities and needs of mankind evolve over time. Let’s just hope that developments in space law come from new international agreements rather than star wars.