Welcome to The Space Treaty Project, a scientific and educational nonprofit located in Mendocino County, California. The mission of the Space Treaty Project is to give people Hope and Inspiration by helping the nations of the Earth to build a Common Future.
At this moment in history, the best way to do that is by building an international framework of laws that will support public and private activity in outer space. By extending the rule of law into space, we can achieve the twin goals of peaceful cooperation and sustainable development.
Right now there is a gap in space law, one that finds its origins in the Outer Space Treaty. Article I of that treaty states that “Outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, shall be free for exploration and use by all States without discrimination of any kind, on a basis of equality and in accordance with international law, and there shall be free access to all areas of celestial bodies.” Article II states that “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.” But there is no language about the extraction, use, and possession of outer space resources. Despite the mandate for free access and the prohibition against appropriation, countries are passing laws and signing agreements that will create exclusive use zones and priority rights for the development of resources. The competition for scarce resources and favorable locations (e.g., water ice and peaks of eternal sunlight) is moving toward conflict.
Humanity is facing a historical crisis, when just a slight shift can cause massive changes that can last for decades, even centuries. The closest parallel occurred five centuries ago, when the Age of Exploration became the Age of Imperialism and Colonialism. A few countries with advanced technology sought to control the resources of “new” worlds and created a legacy of war, suffering, and neglect that is still being felt today. We need a new international agreement on space resources to keep from repeating the mistakes of history.
Since 2017, the Space Treaty Project has been developing a Model Resource Agreement that can stand alone or be part of the Moon Treaty. After extensive peer review and public comment, the current version establishes a legal framework for space resource activity that supports the private sector while still protecting essential public policies (e.g., free access, nonappropriation) and without creating a new supra-national government. It focuses on three types of sharing:
1. Share Resources: Access to resources shall be shared. All space resource activity shall be conducted in such a manner so that others can safely access the same resource, with due regard and without harmful interference to the efforts of others.
2. Share Information: Countries and their nationals shall share the results of space resource activity, including the discovery of new resources. Technology shall be shared through standardization, interoperability, licensing, and capacity-building.
3. Share Responsibility: Countries and their nationals shall protect sites of scientific/historical/cultural interest and prevent the harmful contamination and disruption of the existing balance of the lunar environment.
The full text of the two-page agreement is at www.spacetreaty.org/modelimplementationagreementcurrent.pdf
This effort has been given a boost by the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. In 2022 it created a Working Group on Outer Space Resources, whose five-year mandate includes considering “additional international governance instruments”. Their work so far is available at https://www.unoosa.org/oosa/en/ourwork/copuos/2023/index.html. But a deadlock has developed over the above issues, one that threatens to derail efforts toward a new international agreement (see links to article and video, below). Our Petition is intended to show popular support for such an agreement, to make it easier for negotiators and world leaders to achieve consensus on a framework for sharing outer space resources.
We have reached a moment in humanity’s history when an international agreement is essential. In December 1968, our view of the world changed, literally. As Apollo 8 rounded the Moon, the astronauts on board were suddenly overwhelmed as humans saw the Earth rising above the lunar horizon for the first time. The picture taken at that moment showed our beautiful planet hanging in the vastness of space. Humanity as a species began to realize that we are all one, living together on a fragile planet hurtling through the cosmos.
But even though no borders were visible, war and suffering continue to wrack our home world. In the half-century since, people have begun to lose faith in their governments, their private institutions, even in humanity itself. Every day we wake up to news of worsening climate change, increasing social unrest, and rising international conflict. To that has now been added the threat of war in outer space. The people of Earth are beginning to despair, wondering if there is anything they can really believe in. They are losing hope.
The mission of the Space Treaty Project is nothing less than to restore that hope, to counter the despair of war and violence and neglect, to give the people of our planet a future they can believe in by helping the nations of the Earth to build a common future. We have a unique opportunity to set an example, to build that shining city on a hill that will light the way for all.
It has been 500 years since the world has had such an opportunity to start anew. At that time, we chose to perpetuate military conquest and economic exploitation, which caused misery and countless wars. And when the Industrial Revolution came along, we placed profits ahead of people and the planet, resulting in economic and environmental catastrophe. Much of humanity stopped believing in our ability to control our own destiny.
We can change that. But we must act now. There will be only one time when humanity leaves its home world, only one chance to create a new pattern that will lead each person, and all nations, to their best destiny. That time is now. Please join in this effort to restore hope and create a better world – a better universe – for all of us.
[To sign our Share the Moon petition, please visit https://www.change.org/p/share-the-moon. For the latest on the efforts of the UN Space Resources Working Group, please visit https://spacewatch.global/2023/07/spacewatchgl-opinion-un-copuos-space-resources-meetings-reveal-wide-spectrum-of-opinions-but-also-some-consensus-on-scope-of-discussions/ and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MVY-koJQjhI]