Is There A Lunar Peace Treaty To Prevent Military Activity In Space?

Several countries have signed agreements to prevent future space wars, but you may not have known that our moon also has a treaty. 

And the treaty is known as The Outer Space Treaty. It was put in place to prevent potential damage to the moon by preventing military use, State reports.

This treaty was agreed upon both by the United States and Russia in 1967. The purpose was that the “moon and other celestial bodies” should only be used for peaceful purposes. And according to Futurism, 97 other countries also agreed to the treaty.

Outer Space Treaty at 50. Credit: NASA.

Outer Space Treaty

More than fifty years ago, the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union opened a treaty that would become the backbone for international space law. 

It was a United Nations-approved deal called the Outer Space Treaty, and 104 nations have become participants to the document since it was signed and enacted in 1967. 

The treaty has served to guarantee the peaceful exploration of space, as well as provide a permanent framework for how nations are supposed to behave in Earth orbit and beyond.

The “Outer Space Treaty” is just a nickname. So, the document’s original full title is actually as follows; 

United Nations-approved deal called the Outer Space Treaty, and 104 nations have become participants to the document since it was signed and enacted in 1967
United Nations-approved deal called the Outer Space Treaty, and 104 nations have become participants to the document since it was signed and enacted in 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.

Well, it’s a quit mouth-full name, but it sums up the essence of the treaty. It’s a list of rules for what nations can do in space and on other worlds. For example, countries can’t claim an asteroid as theirs, and they should prevent contamination of foreign planets.

Furthermore, the hallmark of the Outer Space Treaty is that it isn’t too detailed. The document is just 17 short articles in length. The Outer Space Treaty was never intended to be complete, though. 

It was created when space travel was in its start, the deal was meant to address concerns that could arise as space technology advanced. So it is slightly adjustable in its interpretation, as well as limited. 

The treaty has still acted as the foundation for every piece of space legislation that has been created in the past half-century. It is actually the most essential and most significant source of international space law.

And all global space law follows from it, and all national space enterprises fall under the treaty.

The Outer Space Treaty signed.
The Outer Space Treaty Signed.

You Can Not Claim Space

The Outer Space Treaty determines that all nations should have free access to space. And that journeys to the cosmos should be a peaceful enterprise. 

And such exploration should also be done “for the benefit and in the interests of all countries, which quickly set up the importance of global cooperation in the realm of space travel.

But immediately after formulating this “fair use” of space, the new treaty makes one crucial warning: A nation cannot appropriate the space and celestial bodies. 

And that implies a country can’t claim the Moon as its own. The motive was to stop space land grabs, comparable to the territorial claims that disturbed Antarctica’s exploration in the first half of the 1900s.

So, in recent years, space law authorities have been discussing its construction as more and more companies show interest in mining space objects for resources. 

Private business the Moon Express hopes to launch its first spacecraft to the Moon. It has a long-term goal of mining the Moon for water, while Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries strive to extract water and other resources from asteroids in the future. 

In 2015, Congress established the US Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, which guaranteed that US-based businesses would get the rights to anything they obtained from space. 

So, the United States argues that the Outer Space Treaty does not expressly prohibit such actions. And while many specialists feel this is a fair interpretation, it’s still likely that other nations may feel otherwise and claim that such extraction is in violation of the treaty.

No Atomic Weapons in Orbit

Furthermore, in 1967, when the Outer Space Treaty was signed, the Cold War was in full motion. Both the Soviet Union and the US wanted to stop the expansion of the nuclear arms race into entirely new territory. 

So, as space technologies grew more advanced, there was a concern that Earth orbit and beyond gave a whole new area from which weapons of mass destruction could be launched. Therefore, an article in the treaty bans countries from putting nuclear weapons in Earth’s orbit or on other planetary bodies.

Space, however, hasn’t been entirely free of weaponization. Earth orbit has become an essential foothold for militaries across the world when it comes to surveillance, communications, and the control of weapons on Earth. 

But the part of the treaty banning nuclear weapons which made the deal a non-armament measure has never been broken and has enabled space to be a peaceful exploration area.

The Outer Space Treaty

Planetary Safeguard

So, the Outer Space Treaty tasks countries with “avoiding the harmful contamination” of celestial bodies, and additionally, nations have to make sure that any space rocks they bring back to Earth won’t harm the planet. 

These responsibilities have become the basis for something called planetary protection. It is an effort to protect our Solar System from contamination of Earth’s life, as well as protect Earth from any possible alien life-forms. It’s become an essential aspect of all the planetary missions that NASA and other space agencies undertake.

Is There Life Beyond Earth? 

The reason for adding this provision was to support the scientific community to answer an important question: is there life beyond Earth? 

The creators of the treaty knew it would be hard to identify an extraterrestrial organism on Mars if we had already spread Earth life on the planet. 

Conversely, experts didn’t know if there was alien life on our Moon or elsewhere, and they didn’t want to take the chance of space agencies returning a deadly space microbe that we never encountered before.

Guidelines by The Committee on Space Research

Furthermore, the Outer Space Treaty doesn’t define the ways in which nations should stop this cross-contamination, although most countries try to adhere to guidelines set out by COSPAR or the Committee on Space Research.

It is a global organization of experts that comes up with rules for how to basically clean a vehicle depending on where the spacecraft is going in space. It also has rules for how to handle space samples that are brought back to Earth, to guarantee nothing unhealthy is spread.

Countries Are Responsible For Their Space Activities

The Outer Space Treaty may be an arrangement between countries, but its outlines also cover what private corporations do in space. 

A particular line in the treaty says that governments must be held responsible for their operations in space, including those from non-governmental projects. 

That means that nations have to oversee whatever the private sector does in space and can be held liable for commercial companies’ actions if they don’t adhere to the articles of the treaty. 

Furthermore, the treaty allows for commercial activity in space, but part of that trade-off was when the administration took an obligation to supervise commercial actors in space.

Since then, space commercialization has become amazingly advanced. Numerous telecommunications corporations have put multiple satellites in orbit around Earth.

And while businesses have appeared that are dedicated to remote sensing, satellites are used to scan the Earth and collect information about objects on the planet’s surface. 

The FAA or the Federal Aviation Administration is liable for issuing launch licenses for rockets sending satellites into space.

Meantime, the US has produced a number of ways to control the launch and operation of these commercial satellites. 

The FAA or the Federal Aviation Administration is liable for issuing launch licenses for rockets sending satellites into space. As well as making sure that those launches don’t injure the public. 

And the Federal Communications Commission assists in regulating the radio spectrum on which satellites can communicate.

So the real problem now is that businesses are growing even more ambitious, with many aspiring to move beyond just thrusting satellites into space. 

Furthermore, Moon Express aspires to send private spacecraft to our closest neighbor in space, something that has only been done by national governments before. 

The famous Bigelow Aerospace wants to create private space stations in orbit, which is another endeavor that government agencies have only achieved. 

At the moment, there is no regulative framework that allows the US government to oversee these specialized missions in space and ensure that companies adhere to the Outer Space Treaty’s articles.

Legislators are working on enactment that would provide a regulatory framework. It’s an excellent example of the role the Outer Space Treaty has played in the past fifty years. 

So, the treaty has only laid out a minimum set of laws for nations to follow. And how these rules are executed is determined by each country that’s signed the treaty. 

The Outer Space Treaty

The law, guidelines, and regulations in space. Here is a summary of the basic framework:

The Outer Space Treaty gives the basic structure of international space law, including the following principles.

Outer space is not subjected to national appropriation by claim of the exploration. The use of space shall be carried out for the interest and benefit of all nations and shall be the territory of all mankind.

Sovereignty, by means of use or control, or by any other means.

Furthermore, outer space shall be free for exploration and use by all States.

States shall not put any nuclear weapons or similar weapons of mass destruction in orbit or on heavenly bodies or station them in outer space in any different manner.

The Moon and other astronomical bodies shall be used exclusively for peaceful purposes.

All astronauts shall be regarded as the representatives of all mankind.

And states shall be liable for national space ventures whether carried out by governmental or non-governmental entities.

States shall be responsible for the destruction caused by their space objects, and States shall avoid harmful contamination of space and astronomical bodies.

That’s it, thank you for reading this article. If you want to learn more about our Moon, then please head over to this interesting article named: Moon Facts – Interesting & Strange Facts About The Moon.

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