October 10, 1967: Outer Space Treaty Goes into Effect

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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.

Digging Deeper

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.

The basic idea of the treaty is to declare outer space, the Moon and other celestial bodies (planets, asteroids and the like) off limits for military exploitation, especially as far as weapons of mass destruction are concerned.  The idea of numerous satellites circling the Earth above, just waiting for the signal to drop thousands of nuclear weapons may tempt military masters, but luckily the statesmen saw fit to prevent that.  Unfortunately, the treaty does not prevent the stationing or deployment in outer space of conventional weapons.

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.  What rules for outer space do you think should be implemented?

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Historical Evidence

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About Author

Major Dan

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.