The Outer Space Treaty
April 9, 2012 1 Comment
Since 1967, 100 different countries have signed The Outer Space Treaty (Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies). It permits nations and private corporations to conduct mining activities on the moon and on other celestial bodies, but it does maintain a number of questionable aspects.
The treaty’s principles include that space bodies shall only be used for peaceful purposes; the party will be responsible for all damages incurred in ventures and prohibits weapons testing, military bases and “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.”
What are the Terms of the Treaty?
The Outer Space Treaty provides the basic framework on international space law, including the following principles:
- “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 moon is said to have vast amounts of water ice, helium-3, and graphite. This would generate billions of dollars in profits, and settle some of the resource shortages of our planet. Helium-3 has seen its price soar in recent years from $150 per liter to $5,000 per liter.
I think it would make sense to extract some of these resources from the moon if we are in desperate need of them here on planet earth. We are a planet of consumers, and we consume natural resources each and every day to survive. Our planet is however limited in the resources it can provide. As the population continues to expand, it might be necessary to explore other means of acquiring these resources to sustain life.
What are the Moral Issues of the Treaty?
The idea of extracting resources from outer space does come with some concern. First, I believe there will be ample competition to gain access to these resources as they become more scarce here on earth. As the treaty says, “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.”
Would this be realistic? If we are currently at war for resources on our own planet, what makes you think we wont fight and kill for possession of the resources in the vastness of space? I think there will be always be conflict when there is a lot of value at stake. There will always be a fight for power and control, as much as the agreement calls for a benefit to all countries and all of mankind. Things could get a little ugly once one country decides to begin extracting resources from the moon. Just look at the struggle to control the oil industry in recent years.
I think conflict and war would almost be inevitable. Unless we could somehow come to terms with one another and share what we can obtain, there will be a struggle to control the resources. I don’t think it would work in the society we live in today. I don’t think the powerful elite of our planet could share what they find. They are too selfish to act in the best interest of humanity. History has proven that, and it would almost certainly repeat itself in a situation like this.