On This Day In Space: Oct. 10, 1967: The Outer Space Treaty is born

As the title of the article indicates, 55 years ago today the Outer Space Treaty (OST) was ratified by over 100 countries. The purpose of the treaty was to set out rules regulation the exploration and use of outer space, enabling scientists around the world to work towards the good of all humanity in their endeavors towards the heavens.

The basic framework of the treaty is as follows:

  • the exploration and use of outer space shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries and shall be the province of all mankind;
  • outer space shall be free for exploration and use by all States;
  • outer space is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means;
  • States shall not place nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction in orbit or on celestial bodies or station them in outer space in any other manner;
  • the Moon and other celestial bodies shall be used exclusively for peaceful purposes;
  • astronauts shall be regarded as the envoys of mankind;
  • States shall be responsible for national space activities whether carried out by governmental or non-governmental entities;
  • States shall be liable for damage caused by their space objects; and
  • States shall avoid harmful contamination of space and celestial bodies.

Future of the OST

Whether due to the heightened global strategic tensions or the increasing privatization of space, many experts argue that treaty as it stands today is no longer sufficient to cover the growing landscape of space challenges and the various participants. I believe that this stance also extends to the emergence of cyber threats in the space landscape. In order for humanity to continue to freely explore the universe, an effective and legally binging mechanism must be implemented to ensure the safety of missions from cyber attacks. Space missions are already designed to withstand the most hostile environment imaginable, adding adversarial elements to the mix will only serve to further complicate and impede scientific progress. Any proposed updates to the OST must include language specifically outlining protections from cyber related threats, or they will not be effective moving forward. 

Original article: https://www.space.com/39251-on-this-day-in-space.html


Robert.wickramatunga United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, The Outer Space Treaty. Available at: https://www.unoosa.org/oosa/en/ourwork/spacelaw/treaties/introouterspacetreaty.html