Colonizing Outer Space/Colonization/Law

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International Space Law

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International Space Law is a set of documents which govern activities in outer space by the governments of the Earth. While nobody actually lives permanently outside of Earth right now, to suggest there are no existing laws governing activities in space is not accurate either. Right now outer space is governed through various international treaties regarding who is responsible for the equipment that goes beyond Earth and what legal rights may be asserted by governments of many nations. Below are some of the major documents of space law and a brief overview of each document:

Logo of UN Office for Outer Space Affairs
Logo of UN Office for Outer Space Affairs
  • Outer Space Treaty - Basic governance of extraterrestrial bodies and relinquishment of sovereignty claims by Earth governments.
  • Moon Treaty - Follow up treaty to Outer Space Treaty, but has not been ratified by any major space-faring nation except for France.
  • Nuclear Test Ban Treaty - Prohibition of nuclear weapons in space and legal consequences of nuclear detonation in space. Also affects technologies like the Orion project and nuclear rockets.
  • Montevideo Convention - declaring requirements to be recognized as a "state" by the UN and other nations.
  • The Antarctic Treaty - The original international treaty for new territories post WWII, and the basis for much of the current space law even if it doesn't explicitly deal with celestial bodies.

United States of America

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In April 2, 2012 the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a non-profit think tank with the purpose of advancing economic liberty and fighting over-regulation by big government released a new study named Homesteading the Final Frontier: A Practical Proposal for Securing Property Rights in SpacePDF by Adjunct Scholar Rand Simberg. In it they argue that the U.S.A. should recognize transferable off-planet land claims. Arguing that the 1967 Outer Space Treaty only clearly prohibits declarations of national sovereignty, and noting that the U.S.A. is not a signatory of the 1979 Moon Treaty, which does outlaw private property claims in space. That a legal regime for real estate on the Moon, planets and asteroids could usher in a new era of space exploration at little or no cost to the U.S.A. government. But without off-planet property rights, investors have little incentive to fund space transportation or development.

The issue of property rights in space, that undoubtedly would bring economic progress, is mostly irrelevant if done in a isolated fashion without a broader international agreement. Without it the only recourse would be the militarization of space, since if other nations do not recognize those property rights they would be required to assure the defense for those claims, be it by private or national means.