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Is It Already Time To Have Laws For Outer Space?

Space travel started when Yuri Gagarin from Russia went to space for the first time. That was the first step, and since then, there has been no going back.

Apart from human missions, there have been countless missions with communication satellites that play an essential role in our daily lives. However, the frequency of such travels and research on the outer space has increased in recent times.

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This has also lead to frequent space travels, and some big companies venturing into sending missions to Mars have given hopes to space enthusiasts about moving to the outer space one day.

Current programs & mission to visit outer space

There have been plans of colonizing the Moon and creating societies on Mars for a long time. But this vision is getting closer to reality with new programs.

Elon Musk’s SpaceX aims to create a Mars colony for humans. He says that he wants to have a Mars society as a backup in case there is a catastrophe on the Earth and we need to move to another planet.

Last year, the company signed on the world’s first private space passenger to fly around the moon using their BFR launch vehicle.

On a similar note, Amazon’s Blue Origin aims to reach a situation where millions of people can work as well as live in Space. They want to save the Earth for the future generations by tapping into the unlimited resources and energy that space has to offer.

They highlight the fact that going to space can immensely benefit the Earth and has become a need considering the increase in population as well as demand for resources.

There are some valuable resources in outer space. It is a known fact that Asteroids are rich in elements like scandium, platinum, palladium, etc. Therefore, investors, governments, as well as entrepreneurs, want to explore the space and have even made plans to settle there.

The recent advancements in technology, as well as more interest from big players, have led to a decrease in the operational cost to take people to space missions.

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The legal system in outer space

However, there is not a lot of clarity when it comes to space law. This is something that is holding back many space enthusiasts to start their entrepreneurial quest.

There are many questions to ponder upon when it comes to space law.

First and foremost, do we even have the right to make a law for space? How can we establish a legal system for space?

Well, it can be seen as something similar to maritime law. After all, it is the spacecraft that would be interacting with another spacecraft. So, the legal system would aim to set up some principles that would ensure compliances from both parties.

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This would be similar to “collision in the Sea” law under the maritime law. But is the law efficient enough to be implemented in the outer space?

History

The race to go to space began in the 1960s when some missions were sent to the moon. However, countries unanimously decided that they would not colonize the moon as the world was already in the process of decolonization, and the evil effects of colonization were evident.

This made the moon a common property for everyone. This was evident when the United States agreed to share its findings of the moon with the rest of the world.

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Hence, that problem was sorted, and no one owned the moon. The Outer Space Treaty is an essential step in this regard to clarify space laws.  

However, there are too many loopholes in this treaty because it does not talk about the commercial exploitation of natural resources available in the outer space.

According to the space laws, the moon is common property, so if an entrepreneur has the right licenses and compliances, he/she can go to the outer space and mine for asteroids. Once they get the natural resources, it is up to them to use it as personal property.

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Moreover, the treaty allowed for non-governmental activities but they need to be carried out under government supervision. This allowed for the establishment of telecommunication satellites; launching industries focused on spacecraft, remote-sensing, etc.

But the more pressing issues of economic exploitation of the moon and the outer space are not discussed extensively in the treaty.

Current legal situation 

Currently, there is a lot of ambiguity in the space law, but it does not allow for a national appropriation for resources. However, this does allow for “private activities” by individuals as long as they have the licenses.

So, commercial activities can be carried out in the Moon and other celestial bodies as long as there is appropriate supervision by competent authorities. This is stated in the Outer Space treaty, but it is slightly ambiguous and leaves a lot of loopholes.

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Therefore, a need to revise the treaty is very urgent, and it needs to focus on many more issues like weapons in space, access to space, mining rights, boundary disputes, space debris, and other similar concerns. There is a need for international cooperation in this regard because dealing with outer space is somewhat different from maritime law as access to space is not as easy as access to international waters.

There is an emergent need to revise the Outer Space Treaty and add many more aspects to it. The times are not very far away when going to Space missions would become an everyday thing.

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We need to be prepared for such times and have the laws ready so that any future wars for the outer space can be avoided. All the governments need to come together and make space laws that would benefit everyone, and that would stop any kind of exploitation on the moon and other celestial bodies.

After all, nobody wants a repeat of European colonization in the outer space too!

Source: Interesting Engineering