To the Moon … and Beyond!

Today is the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 launch to the Moon. This event culminated in what is arguably the greatest achievement of mankind. Like most if not all human events and endeavors, there are numerous legal issues arising from it.

Many of these issues are addressed in the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, formally the “Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, Including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies“, which provides in part:

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.

Article III
States Parties to the Treaty shall carry on activities in the exploration and use of outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, in accordance with international law, including the Charter of the United Nations, in the interest of maintaining international peace and security and promoting international co-operation and understanding.

Article IV
States Parties to the Treaty undertake not to place in orbit around the Earth any objects carrying nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction, install such weapons on celestial bodies, or station such weapons in outer space in any other manner.

The Moon and other celestial bodies shall be used by all States Parties to the Treaty exclusively for peaceful purposes. The establishment of military bases, installations and fortifications, the testing of any type of weapons and the conduct of military maneuvers on celestial bodies shall be forbidden. The use of military personnel for scientific research or for any other peaceful purposes shall not be prohibited. The use of any equipment or facility necessary for peaceful exploration of the Moon and other celestial bodies shall also not be prohibited. …

There are also legal issues involving, for example, criminal jurisdiction, private lunar ventures, and ownership issues in general (see, e.g., here and here).

As mankind continues to reach for the stars, the field of space law will undoubtedly continue to grow.