Front Page


Staff

Editor: Veronica Pierce
OpEd: Dan Schrimpsher
Reporter: Dan Schrimpsher
Finance: Veronica Pierce
Contact Us Alternative Contact
space (spās) n. 1. space beyond the atmosphere of the earth.

prag·ma·tism (prgm-tzm) n. A way of approaching situations or solving problems that emphasizes practical applications and consequences.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

The Outer Space Treaty implodes on Itself

Okay, let me say up front, I am not a lawyer. But I find this interesting. As far as I can ascertain, two articles in the Outerspace treaty render it rather silly.

Article II
Outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means.

So, If I move to the moon, I am not, at that point, a citizen of the US/Russia/China/UN whatever. Or at least I am living in not place that any Earth based government has any legal right to regulate. This includes any country that signed said treaty.

Article VI

States Parties to the Treaty shall bear international responsibility for national activities in outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, whether such activities are carried on by governmental agencies or by non-governmental entities, and for assuring that national activities are carried out in conformity with the provisions set forth in the present Treaty. The activities of non-governmental entities in outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, shall require authorization and continuing supervision by the appropriate State Party to the Treaty. When activities are carried on in outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, by an international organization, responsibility for compliance with this Treaty shall be borne both by the international organization and by the States Parties to the Treaty participating in such organization.
Now, from article II we know that no government has any jurisdictional power over any "celestial body" and therefore none over any person on that celestial body. So no government has the ability to assure any actions of a person on said body.

Basically what I am saying is that any group of people who go to the Moon, for instance, are immediately exempt from this treaty because no government on Earth has the legal right to enforce the treaty on the Moon.

So a group of citizens can go to the Moon, and assemble all the WMDs they want, and there isn't a damn thing the US, UN, or any other country who cares can do about it (except withdraw from the treaty and attack the moon).

So, am I full of it? Or have I found a loophole?

Update 9:38pm: I forgot to mention I got the text of the treaty from http://spacebombardment.blogspot.com/

37 comments:

Norden said...

The tricky part is that you probably have to be willing to give up citizenship and launch from the third world without exporting technolgy.

There were some good articles on the practical issues at the Texas Space Society years ago, I'll see if I can find them at archive.org

Norden said...

Here's one of the articles from the Houson Space Society I was thinking about.

Moon Claims

"...So who wants authorization? Who wants continuing supervision? Who needs it? These are issues of no importance to ordinary people with private purposes. These ideas are estimable only to tyrants and their bureaucrats."

Dan Schrimpsher said...

Putting the weapons issue aside, why would you have to give up your citizenship and launch from anywhere else?

To illustrate, what if the Apollo 17 crew (putting aside issues of supplies) just decided not to come home. They radioed Houston and said, "were staying up here."

What recourse would NASA or the US Government have? I mean these men have stolen US property, but (based on the treaty) have taken it to a "land" with no extradition and no police force. So what can they do? They have no legal right to go and get the men, as they have no sovereignty there, and they can't take weapons into space.

Norden said...

Here's one example why citizenship would be a problem if America opposed you.

Law against Amricans mining Antartica

"prohibit prospecting, exploration, and development of Antarctic mineral resources by United States citizens "

I'd expect quick, tough U.N. backed sanctions against any small power or independent force trying to settle Luna.

Dan Schrimpsher said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Dan Schrimpsher said...

Oh, so they treat you like a government rather than a citizen. Well I understand that. So you would have to be self-sufficient.

I understand the US wouldn't like US Citizens doing it, but what can they if they can't bring weapons to bear on you? Well break off supplies would work.

Of course, you couldn't come back...

Allison Rae Hannigan said...

I don't believe the United States ever signed and/or ratified the Treaty. Any historians out there?

Michael Turner said...

I think you're misconstruing. The first article you quote disallows appropriation of space and appropriations of a celestial bodies. In short, nobody can claim all of the Moon, for example. This wording doesn't preclude some eventual framework for property rights to portions of celestial bodies. Nor does it preclude law governing activities on celestial bodies -- indeed, much of the treaty concerns itself with what rules cosignatories have to abide by.

How about claiming some of the Moon? The treaty doesn't address property rights at this point because property rights were then, and are now, pretty irrelevant. I say "at this point," because the situation could change. In which case, cosignatories could potentially vote to provide for property rights.

As for whether the U.S. signed and ratified the treaty: yes, it did. (That's a 10-second Google search.)

http://www.state.gov/www/global/arms/treaties/space1.html

Michael Turner said...

"Oh, so they treat you like a government rather than a citizen."

Not necessarily. See Article VI:

"The activities of non-governmental entities in outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, shall require authorization and continuing supervision by the appropriate State Party to the Treaty. When activities are carried on in outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, by an international organization, responsibility for compliance with this Treaty shall be borne both by the international organization and by the States Parties to the Treaty participating in such organization."

In other words, as a member of an organization using the moon for some purpose, you're subject to the authority of your cosignatory nation (if your organization owes its official existence to recognition in any such nation), and to the authority of cosignatories, insofar as your activities relate to the treaty. Unless you're doing something nasty up there (like WMD proliferation), it's hard to find any terms in the Outer Space treaty that prevent you from doing anything your organization allows you to do.

It might be best to appeal for recognition from the government of, say, some small island cosignatory state. (E.g., one of those states that doesn't care much how you earned your money as long as you deposit it with them ;-)

That might not be the best approach from the point of view of getting sufficient investment, however. Also, unless your organization has overwhelming clout with that government on issues related to uses of the moon, you also face some risks, like having your assets nationalized.

As I read this treaty, there's nothing in it stopping any sufficiently wealthy and determined group from going to the moon and setting up shop. You would not be treated like a government, but you would be treated like an organization subject to the regulation of some government. However, I think declaring your own nation there amounts to "national appropriate", prohibited by Article II.

Then there's the "Agreement Governing the Activities of States
on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies", not signed or ratified by the U.S., but in force as a U.N. agreement. I really haven't studied this one, but the core of the controversy seems to be about some apparently redistributionist language in it. On the other hand, it does talk about how lunar exploitation equity should be worked out, when such exploitation seems like it's about to become possible.

ken murphy said...

I'm not a lawyer either, but we did cover the treaties at ISU, and what it boils down to is that individuals cannot be a party to an international treaty, only countries. Countries are responsible for the activities of their citizens even while in space, and if my corporate robot bumps into a power tower owned by a Chinese company and knocks it over, then the Chinese government has a claim on the U.S. government, irrespective of the fact that it happened on the Moon. The U.S. government is liable for damages caused by its citizens or machines. This is further fleshed out in the Liability Convention.

The key article is number 8, to wit:

"A State Party to the Treaty on whose registry an object is launched into outer space is carried shall retain jurisdiction and control over such object, and over any personnel thereof, while in outer space or on a celestial body. Ownership of objects launched into outer space, including objects landed or constructed on a celestial body, and of their component parts, is not affected by their presence in outer space or on a celestial body or by their return to Earth..."

Being a business type, I construe "of their component parts" to mean those things necessary to the functioning of the machine. If the processing of regolith is the function of a machine, then regolith put into it becomes a "component part", and therefore mine.

Basically, you can't claim what you're not using, no one can interfere in your operations (and you can't interfere in theirs), and if you abandon a site, like a slusher-bucket field, then it becomes fair game for anyone that wants to put it to good use. You can process regolith, and no one can deny you the fruits of that processing, but any abandoned tailings are fair game.

OST had to be written a little loose in the wording because the U.S. didn't want a veto from the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union was largely against private enterprise in space, but they couldn't outright forbid it in the treaty or the U.S. wouldn't sign it. So we're left with a lot of ambiguity. As far as I'm concerned there's nothing in the treaty stopping me from going out and mining an asteroid and profiting from the fruits of my labors. I just can't go around interfering with the operations of others or causing damages for which the U.S. government would be liable. Essentially it's first come, first served.

All the more reason to get our butts moving.

ken murphy said...

Oops, poor wording. That's Article 8 of the OST, not the Liability Convention

swissred said...

I'm happy that so many people post info about adware on their blogs; I am the owner of an bps spyware adware remover 8.2.9 website; I'd glad if you pay me a visit. You'll probably find useful info for your next adware related posts.

Anonymous said...

Hey, you have a great blog here! I'm definitely going to bookmark you!
I have a virus scan site/blog. It pretty much covers ##KEYWORD## related stuff.

Come and check it out if you get time :-)

heropoo said...

Your blog is excellent - keep it up! Don't miss visiting this site about bad credit home equity loan

stony said...

Hey, you have a great blog here! I'm definitely going to bookmark you!

Hey, you have a great blog here! I'm definitely going to bookmark you!
I have a video site/blog. It pretty much covers video related stuff.

Come and check it out if you get time :-)

stony said...

Great blog here! I have a mp3 downloads site/blog. It pretty much covers mp3 downloads related stuff.

Come and check it out if you get time :-)

Online Incomes said...

Nice blog, keep up the good work!
I have a blog/site toowell fargo home equity loan
It's a free information site on on home equity loans and refinancing. It can help you save money if you are in the market for a loan.
You should check it out if you have the time :-)

Harry said...

You would like to be informed about the newest virus alerts? Click here: adware removal.

Anonymous said...

Hey, you have a great blog here! I'm definitely going to bookmark you!

I have a Loan site/blog. It pretty much covers Loans related information. We provide online applications, business, residential, we do all loans.

Come and check it out if you get time :-)

Anonymous said...

I think you might find this title loan website usefull : LoanLearner.com

Anonymous said...

Nice blog. Check out mine if you can. Thanks. memphis car finance

Anonymous said...

good resource here. I would also link to israeli beauty product

Anonymous said...

good resource here. I would also link to beauty fitness product

Anonymous said...

Hello,
Great blog with some useful info on kansas home equity loan. I have a kansas home equity loan themed site you and your visitors might find interesting. I'd love for you to check it out.

Roberto Iza Valdes said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed reading your Blog about nokia mobile phone. I also have a Blog/Website about nokia mobile phone come check it out!! Have a great day!

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed you blog about home based business. I also have a site about home based business which makes me appreciate this one even more! Keep up the good work!

Goodman441 said...

Hey! I found a great new site for loans and credit card information, Please visit it when you can, You will be glad you did!! Go here now! http://www.loanofficial.com

Roberto Iza Valdes said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Roberto Iza Valdes said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
WorldTrader said...

I just came across your blog about **keyword** and wanted to drop you a note telling you how impressed I was with the information you have posted here. I also have a web site & blog about **keyword**. Your site is top-notch! Keep up the great work, you are providing a great resource on the Internet here.low rate home equity loan

Blog World said...

Faith is spiritualized imagination.
Henry Ward Beecher- Posters.

Roberto Iza Valdes said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Juno-Regina said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Roberto Iza Valdes said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Crazy Dan said...

Check it out when you have time as i'm sure you could find
all kinds of info to suit your needs some time.

Iza Firewall said...
This comment has been removed by the author.