To whom do celestial bodies belong


The space race between the Soviet Union and the USA in the 1950s / 60s began in 1955 with the declaration by US President Dwight D. Eisenhower that he wanted to put a satellite into orbit in the "International Geophysical Year 1957/58". The next day, the Soviet Union announced that the first orbiting satellite would be a Soviet one. This technical masterpiece was actually achieved by the Soviet Union on October 4, 1957 with the launch of the small satellite "Sputnik 1". The USA reacted to this by launching "Explorer 1" on February 1, 1958.

As a result of these events, the UN General Assembly convened an ad hoc committee for the peaceful uses of space in 1958, which was converted into a permanent UN space committee in 1959. The UN resolution on legal principles for the exploration and use of outer space of December 1963 was based on his preparatory work. With only a few changes and under significant influence of the Soviet Union and the USA, the "Treaty on the Principles for the Regulation of the Activities of States" was signed in January 1967 in the exploration and use of space including the moon and other celestial bodies ", the so-called Space Treaty (WRV) signed in London, Moscow and Washington. It came into force for some countries in October 1967 and for Germany in February 1971. Today 109 states ratified the space treaty, and a further 23 states signed it.

With the freedom to research and use in space (Art. I), the prohibition of national appropriation (Art. II), the supplementary application of general international law (Art. III), the prohibition of nuclear and weapons of mass destruction in space (Art. IV) , the rescue of space travelers (Art. V), the responsibility of each Contracting State also for private space activities (Art. VI), the liability regime for damage caused by space travel (Art. VII) and the prohibition of contamination (Art. IX) were Space Treaty established groundbreaking principles of space law that have impressively proven themselves over the past 50 years. The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 therefore represents the relevant legal basis of space law to this day.

Nevertheless, there was definitely criticism in the first few years of its validity. [1] It was criticized that it was largely a mere repetition of the UN resolution of 1963 and did not provide any explanation or clarification of the terms used. Moreover, the only purpose of the treaty is to send a signal of political relaxation. It is seen as reassuring evidence of international cooperation. Others noted that many of the formulations represented empty general and public interest clauses, were imprecise and incomplete, and contained preamble poetry that was legally unusable. [2]

These views were misguided simply because of their destructive stance. Even then, it had to be considered a historic achievement that the Great Powers Soviet Union and the USA, which were in the process of the Cold War, had agreed on such a treaty at all. [3] The fact that some of its provisions require interpretation does not speak against this finding, but is common for an international treaty. With the recognized methods of interpretation of international law, appropriate results can also be achieved in space law as a special international law. The use of indefinite legal terms is an essential feature of consensus-based international law and can therefore not be assessed as a qualitative deficiency.

The 1967 Outer Space Treaty is known as the "Magna Charta of Outer Space Law" [4] or the "Outer Space Constitution". [5] Four supplementary space agreements were concluded from 1968 onwards to make it more concrete: the Space Rescue Convention (1968), the Space Liability Convention (1972), the Space Registration Convention (1975) and the Moon Treaty (1979). The latter, however, has remained of no practical importance. Although the space treaty also explicitly refers to the moon, the moon treaty, especially after the USA landed on the moon in 1969, was supposed to make special provisions on the use of the moon and the exploitation of its natural resources. It has only been ratified by 18 states and came into force in 1984. None of the major space travel nations have ratified the lunar treaty. Another agreement on the use of space is the agreement on cooperation in the civilian international space station concluded in January 1998 by the USA, Russia, the European Space Agency (ESA), Japan and Canada. However, it is limited to these five partners, so it is not open to other states to join, like the other space treaties.