The Outer Space Treaty workaround. Bob Zimmerman,

Oct 21, 06:17 AM



Signing of Treaty on Outer Space (Source: UN Photo))

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The Outer Space Treaty workaround. Bob Zimmerman,

I could also label this another sign of the coming dark age. Consider her proposals:

Space laws need to be updated for our time. Extending the Outer Space Treaty or writing a new one is unlikely to work, as US hesitancy to sign the [Treaty on Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space and of the Threat or Use of Force Against Outer Space Objects (PPWT)] shows. ‘Soft law’, driven by need, seems the best option for revising the rules for space operators.

Soft law comprises rules or guidelines that have legal significance but are not binding. It sets standards of conduct for agreeing parties, much like those that protect the environment and endangered species. ‘Rules of the road’ and best practices for space should be developed. These could take a similar form to the navigation guidelines set out in the 1972 Convention on International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, which govern when one vessel should give way to another, as well as other interactions.

Soft law works when it is in the interest of all parties to abide by it. If countries and companies want to maintain the space environment as a usable domain, then it is in their interests to accommodate a variety of operations. Space is more complex to manage than air, land or sea because of the distance, physics and technology involved. Just as in the cyber domain, technology has preceded regulation, making it difficult to impose after the fact.

The first focus of an analogous set of space guidelines should be environmental protection and debris avoidance, areas that most spacefaring nations agree on. [emphasis mine]

Rather than fix a bad law, the Outer Space Treaty, that is binding on everyone, she proposes the we make the laws “soft,” thus unreliable because everyone can ignore them whenever they want. The result? Utter contempt for the law.

Then she indicates her main interest, which isn’t exploration or the settlement of the solar system, which is the actual interest of the people who are building rockets and spaceships, but “environmental protection.” Above all, we must establish strict regulations that will prevent those pristine lifeless worlds from being damaged by us evil humans!

If anything is a prescription for stunting the growth of space exploration, this is it. Unfortunately, it appears that this prescription is also the dominate intellectual approach of today’s academic community.

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