A Brief History
On October 10, 1967, the Outer Space Treaty, formally known as the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (we will stick to the short version!) went into effect.
The treaty had been signed on January 27, 1967, by the United States, the Soviet Union, and the United Kingdom, while in the years since over 100 other countries have subsequently signed.
Another main point of the treaty is to prohibit the claiming of the Moon or any planet as the sovereign property of any nation. Space and the celestial bodies therein are to be the “common heritage of mankind.” The treaty does reasonably respect property rights over objects launched into space, the ownership of which is not void by such launch. Thus, any space station in orbit or on the Moon for example is recognized as owned by the country that sent it up.
The treaty also foresaw the specter of private companies gaining access to space, and thus covers their conduct under the terms of the treaty as well. An attempt at reaching agreement on a Moon Treaty of 1979 failed to garner the support of those nations capable of space launches.
It seems for once the diplomats of major powers got one right, and we have established what seems to be reasonable rules covering space exploration and exploitation. We at History and Headlines hope things stay that way in the future as space capabilities grow and the number of space capable countries expand. Question for students (and subscribers): What rules for outer space do you think should be implemented? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
United Nations. Celebrating the Space Age: 50 Years of Space Technology 40 Years of the Outer Space Treaty: Conference Report 2 – 3, April 2007. United Nations, 2007.