With more and more countries targeting outer space and even talking about the extraction of natural resources such as metals, it is more urgent than ever to regulate outer space. But how do you do this for something that is infinite and does not belong to anyone?
In the United States, the inauguration of US Space Command is currently underway, where professor of space law Frans von der Dunk will deliver remarks. I told him about the state of play in space law and the challenges that exist (for a while).
It is not easy to legislate on space law: space is endless, no one is in the driver’s seat, and more than half of the states in the world are now involved in space travel. There has been a space treaty since 1967 which already contains some rules. For example, you cannot start a military base on the Moon, nor can you claim a space. But now that ever-growing interests are at stake, Von der Dunk says there is a desperate need to come up with more and clearer rules.
One topic that should be high on the list – and a relatively easy topic because it has a common interest – is space debris, he says. “It’s not in anyone’s best interests that he soon doesn’t pay more to put hundreds of millions of dollars into a launch because of the massive amount of junk in space,” says Von der Dunk. “Because of this common interest, it can be a good springboard for slightly heavier subjects. First, there must be enough confidence in each other’s intentions.
Rules on the moon
For example, a heavier topic could be: the extraction of natural resources, but also something like control. There are already rules for this too. For example, other states must have a limited opportunity during a launch to verify whether, for example, a nuclear missile is secretly taken into the air. Rules like this already call for expansion, as do the rules for controls on the moon. There’s nothing you can do about it, but when should a Lunar Base Operator open when there’s a knock on the door? In such a dangerous place, you must have come to an understanding very carefully.
Around the table
And then there is the question: who can help determine? Someone doing something in the space business? It’s not just Russia, America and China anymore. And then there are a lot of people at this table. In addition, international law is difficult enough, also here on earth. Because if two of the biggest players say: we don’t see anything in this treaty, we don’t participate, then there could still be so many states for that, so just try to apply it.
Is it possible at all? International space law? Von der Dunk doesn’t deny that it will be extremely difficult, but has a cautious hope. He believes that great strides could be made in the next five years, certainly in certain areas.
Are you curious about the whole story of Von der Dunk: you can listen to his speech tomorrow 08-04 at 21:30 Dutch time. It’s free, but you need to register through this link: United States Space Command Inaugural Legal Conference.