Space exploration has become possible because of advances that have been made in science and technology and following the launch of world’s first satellite in 1957 by Russia, efforts were put forward into coming up with a set of rules for governing airspace. The end result of these efforts was seen in the form of United Nations Outer Space Treaty of 1967. The treaty worked as the foundation upon which space law was and is being built while also serving as an inspiration to other pertinent agreements and conventions.
The treaty was the founding body of space laws and it inspired several other international conventions and agreements. What follows is a list of 11 major laws that are being used for governing space.
1. Space has been termed as common ground and everyone has a right to explore it.
“Outer space shall be free for exploration and use by all States,” the Outer Space Treaty reads.
2. However, this needs to be done peacefully.
“The Moon and other celestial bodies shall be used exclusively for peaceful purposes,” the treaty reads.
3. This implies no military bases.
No country is allowed to put nuclear weapons into orbit or for setting up any military base in space.
4. No country is allowed to claim any space land.
5. The “Moon Agreement” further explains the idea that no country is allowed to own celestial object.
“Neither the surface nor the subsurface of the moon, nor any part thereof or natural resources in place shall become property of any state, international intergovernmental or non-governmental organization, national organization, or non-governmental entity or of any natural person,” the Moon Agreement reads.
6. Registration is mandatory for anything that is being launched into space.
Registration Convention law is similar to vehicle registration, however, apart from the age, model and ownership details you’re also required to register the spacecraft’s orbital path, launching place and its purpose in space.
7. In case of a crash, the government is held responsible for any damage incurred.
Regardless of the activities being held by government or non-government group, the government is responsible for it.
8. A separate treaty to settle liability issues exists as well!
There’s a whole another treaty known as Liability Convention that governs who will be held liable for damages incurred in space. The concept is simple enough; you break it, you bought it. This is also applicable to a spacecraft, space station or satellite crash-landing on Earth.
9. No one is supposed to contaminate space.
NASA and other space agencies are bound by treaty to do everything in their power to avoid any sort of contamination in outer space when spacecraft are sent for exploration of cosmos.
10. The “Rescue Agreement.”
“States shall take all possible steps to rescue and assist astronauts in distress and promptly return them to the launching State,” the treaty reads.
11. US citizens can now harvest minerals from asteroids.
Although the Outer Space Treaty doesn’t allow anyone to claim ownership of any property of space, the Space Act of 2015 has a controversial passage that seemingly allows the ownership of resources that have been harvested in space to individuals. The passage reads, “A United States citizen engaged in commercial recovery of an asteroid resource or a space resource under this chapter shall be entitled to any asteroid resource or space resource obtained, including to possess, own, transport, use, and sell the asteroid resource or space resource obtained in accordance with applicable law, including the international obligations of the United States.”