Why do we need an urgent Space Treaty update?…
UN fears imminent, unrestricted weaponization of space
UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY (Resolution, Dec 2016): The General Assembly, “Seriously concerned about the possibility of an arms race in outer space.” THE OUTER SPACE TREATY, now 52 years old, is the only law that prevents nuclear weaponization in space but cannot prevent “non-aggressive, defensive weaponization” or Earth based (anti-satellite) weapons systems. The OST is being eroded and without an effective update will ultimately lose relevance: articles II and IV will ultimately be diminished by the new national space laws and resultant practise of space faring nations, mainly through progressive militarization and resource exploitation. This will open the way, sooner rather than later, for nuclear weaponization in space.
Many nations anticipate weaponization & conflict in space
CHINA (at UN COPUOS 2016): “the risk of weaponization of outer space and military confrontations in outer space is on the increase with it ….. posing a potential major threat to peace and security in outer space.” Russia, China, USA, India and North Korea are all developing space weapons (and space forces).
Aggressive competition in space exploitation
BIGELOW: “If we don’t get there first, they (China) will!” ….. US Senator Ted Cruz, Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Space, Science and Competitiveness: “America must expand commerce and ultimately settlement into space; and we must do it first.”…. “The world is much safer with America as the global leader of this planet; and the world will similarly be safer and stronger if the United States and our ideals of free enterprise and free speech are the driving force of commerce and settlement throughout the galaxy”
Several nations very unhappy with the US Space Act
Full title: Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act 2015
RUSSIA (at UN COPUOS 2016): “The United States vividly demonstrated a connection between diminishing the Committee’s role and powers, on the one hand, and manifestations of total disrespect for international law order, on the other, by adopting the commercial space launch competitiveness act on 25 November 2015”
US "commerce" is very happy with the US Space Act
Eric Anderson, Co-Founder and Co-Chairman, Planetary Resources: “This is the single greatest recognition of property rights in history.” …….. Bigelow : “The time has come to get serious about lunar property rights” ……. So what do we at MARS REGISTER think about it?…. well, we think the United States “Space Act 2015” is mostly a GOOD THING but it does hurt the 50 year old Outer Space Treaty. So the US needs to show strong responsible leadership and encourage the UN (COPUOS) to work hard to update the Outer Space Treaty. This will prove VERY important.
Space debris levels at "critical"
ESA statement 2017: “All these studies are a clear indicator that the population of large and massive objects has reached a critical density in LEO, and that mitigation alone is not sufficient”.
The likely future without Space Treaty update:
A BIG RISK OF DISASTER FROM SPACE WEAPONIZATION (ultimately from nuclear weapons). Whilst we can all envisage the future benefits to space exploration/exploitation, now facillitated by the US Space Act, we can also see that it badly damages the Outer Space Treaty (articles I and II). International response was initially very mixed but eventually they are all starting to roll over. The bending, accommodating verdict from IISL (international space lawyers) clears the way for other nations to follow suit… and they all will. National interest will demand it. Ultimately, all other space faring nations will update their own national space laws to allow them to commercially mine space resources (thus undermining the whole ethos of the Outer Space Treaty). Over the next 20+ years, 3-5 main space faring nations will compete aggressively for mining rights to the best locations on celestial land (asteroids and planets). Other nations will be left behind. The US will be the clear leader. Wide areas of prime celestial land will be marked out for mining claims. There is a likelihood for friction and aggression unless some regulation can be agreed (such regulation is currently not wanted by all). Already the militarization of space is underway and progressive weaponization is inevitable (to protect space assets and achieve dominance – as stated by US Gov). The new national space laws together with the focus on militarization and exploitation will ultimately destroy the outdated Space Treaty. Space debris becomes largely uncontrolled and progressively dangerous. Nuclear weaponization (and other WMDs) will extend to space. The opportunity for conflict, with nuclear capabilities available, becomes very real. What will it feel like to know that nukes are lurking just above our heads?… that’s right, just 400km above us, not 4000km+ like it is now). The deterence that comes with mutally assured destruction (M.A.D: the situation for the last 50+ years) does not apply any more. Why?… because of the overwhelming military advantage of taking the FIRST STRIKE. We seem to have forgotten that this was a major reason why, in 1965-1966, the US government wisely pushed so hard to get a space treaty signed. So “all bets are off.” A malevolent state government would find it easier, impersonal (initiating attack from space rather than from home soil) and ultimately very advantageous, to deploy satellite jamming weaponry followed by a nuclear first strike on their enemies. There would be no time or capability for an effective military response. Game over.
The future WITH an appropriate Space Treaty update:
[Including a light-touch, space exploitation governing body: the Space Council?]…Within the ‘improved’ treaty, there will be an up to date, fit for purpose legal framework that accommodates space exploitation and offers market friendly governance, whilst still protecting wider celestial lands for all ‘humanity’. Weaponisation remains very restricted, space debris management is universally agreed and acceptable appropriation (if indeed this can be so) is limited by the treaty. US space companies will lead the way and enjoy great profits, but within a responsible framework. Thus safe, vibrant collaborative space exploration and exploitation can flourish, whilst still preserving some benefit and opportunity for the developing non-space faring nations. Weaponization of space will be controlled. WMDs will be firmly & effectively barred.
The Mars Land Claim might sting the UN into updating the Space Treaty
The Mars Prize (moot court competition, with a world class space law judging panel) might awaken UN COPUOS to the issue, but we suspect we will need to legally propagate our claim through international court (The PCA stand ready for this) in order to trigger UN action. Thus we require to have a very well constructed legal claim. We have! … so there is a real possibility that we actually gain title registration to land on Mars (with the land immediately passing into UN trusteeship, thus respecting the text and ethics of the OST and allowing for the creation of a pro-commerce space council. This nimble, savvy, entity would employ a light touch regulatory role (think of a much improved model of the International Seabed Authority).