Who Owns Space? Legal Issues of Space Exploration

5 key international treaties govern space: the Rescue Agreement, the Outer Space Treaty, the Registration, the Liability Convention, and the Moon Agreement.

NASA astronaut Anne McClain was summoned in August 2019 for what could be the first crime a person can commit in space. Summer Worden, a former air force intelligence officer, lodged an identity theft report for the Federal Trade Commission, saying McClain, who is her alienated wife, acquired access to her bank account from the International Space Station without permission, where she is sent for 6 months.

It was published in the New York Times that McClain accepted that she logged into the account from space but asserted that it was routine, and she put fault on the ongoing custody fight and bitter separation of the couple for this. The investigation cleared the astronaut Anne McClain of wrongdoing, but it raised questions about legal issues of space exploration.

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Legal issues of space exploration

Space law is a comparatively new area of law and is based specifically on United Nations Treaties talked terms during the 1960s to 1970s. The U.N. Treaties managing space issues specifically govern international Space Law. These treaties were compromises and agreements between the Soviet Union and the United States, the two major space powers. It’s a testimony to the strength of the general rules maneuvering these treaties. They have endured and continue (with some resolution modification) to explain space law in today’s hugely different economic and geopolitical environment.

The main principles ruling the treaties are:

  1. Space is the “state of mankind.” It’s a place that can be reached out by all the people and nations and used for mutual benefit. No nation can hold sovereignty on the Moon and other planets, and international cooperation in space pursuits is recommended.
  2. All peoples and nations have the liberty of scientific exploration, investigation, and use of space. Nations are motivated to share with others the results of scientific discovery.
  3. States are accountable for their actions or activities by their citizens in space. This principle founded the base for nations to define their domestic and legal laws to develop a legal regime that assures they will bear financial liability for the damage that happened by their space equipment and play their role in protecting the fragile environment of space.
  4. Space must be used for peaceful reasons, and no weapon of destruction shall be placed in space. This rule is made to keep space free from military actions and ban nuclear weapons’ positioning in space completely.

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Space Law

Space law combines international and domestic agreements and rules that govern matters like military, space exploration, weapons use, and liability for damage. It also includes other areas of law, from commercial, criminal, and insurance law to environmental and property law. The U.N. approved document is considered to be the foundation of international space law, which leading principle is that space exploration must be a peaceful initiative, and all states should have free access to space.

Legal issues like the militarization of space, space debris, and exploitation of natural resources have been highlighted by Jakhu (former director of the Institute of Air and Space Law). He mentioned things are going to worsen because of the number of activities in the space. Space provides us tremendous benefits. We just have to maintain the technology. He said things must evolve to protect humans in space.

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