It’s time to revisit the 50-year-old treaty keeping space peaceful

A September 29th article from the MIT Technology Review discusses some insights gleaned from the recent Outer Space Security Conference held by the United Nations. The article begins its discussion with the header “an arms race could be brewing” but then quickly admits that the major world powers have been exploring space as the next war-fighting domain for decades. According to space research analyst Benjamin Silverstein, “we’re probably past the point at which it’s prudent to focus our main efforts on preventing that arms race”.

The article then pivots to discussing the existing legislature concerning peacekeeping in space, which largely consists of the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, which prohibits militarizing outer space. Commentators highlight the largest issue with the treaty: it was written when the prospect of commercial spaceflight was unthinkable. However, the ongoing boom in the civilian space sector, it’s time to reexamine the freedoms and limitations for non-government entities in space.

Terrestrial infrastructure’s reliance on the space sector makes regulating outer space paramount. Silverstein posits, “It’s very difficult to say we can address an arms race in space without addressing things on Earth”, but this relationship goes both ways. With the ‘Pandora’s box’ of space warfare already opened, we’re long overdue for a reexamination of international space policy.

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