On January 27, 1967, the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union signed the Outer Space Treaty, formally the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodes. According to ArmsControl.org as of 2020 there are 110 states-parties and another 89 countries have signed but not completely ratified.
According to the official Office for Outer Space Affairs of the UN, the main tenets of the treaty are:
- the exploration and use of outer space shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries and shall be the province of all mankind;
- outer space shall be free for exploration and use by all States;
- outer space is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means;
- States shall not place nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction in orbit or on celestial bodies or station them in outer space in any other manner;
- the Moon and other celestial bodies shall be used exclusively for peaceful purposes;
- astronauts shall be regarded as the envoys of mankind;
- States shall be responsible for national space activities whether carried out by governmental or non-governmental entities;
- States shall be liable for damage caused by their space objects; and
- States shall avoid harmful contamination of space and celestial bodies.
The Conversation says the Outer Space Treaty has been remarkably successful, but is it fit for the modern age? An interesting read is On Clearing the Earth’s Orbital Debris and Enforcing the Outer Space Theory in the U.S.
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