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Adrienne Lawrence

Legal analyst, law professor & award-winning author

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World must update governing structures for outer space

Mar 6

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The Odysseus lunar landing this past February marked the first soft landing on the moon for a commercial space vehicle. That historic event coincided with reports that the U.S. was warning Russia against deploying nuclear-armed anti-satellite weapons into space.

Straight Arrow News contributor Adrienne Lawrence argues that the nations of the world must come together to design much more comprehensive governing and legal structures for the next great frontier before the chaos gets out of hand. In addition, Lawrence argues leaders must be careful not to forget the many unresolved crises here on Earth.

That being the case, we need a whole new set of rules, and by rules I mean laws.

In mid-February, when news broke that the U.S. privately warned Russia not to deploy new nuclear-armed anti-satellite weapons in outer space, I kept scrolling down my feed. There are simply too many problems on this planet, or on this continent to be honest, for me to really give a damn. But now that I’ve had time to process it, I am utterly terrified, because we don’t have current laws and enforcement abilities in place, really, that reflect our current technological advancements, and the need to escape our current environmental crises.

Yeah, the world has an Outer Space Treaty. And it’s cute, really, but it’s not all-encompassing, and it’s not really realistic. The Outer Space Treaty, or OST as I like to call it, is a multilateral treaty that governs international space law. But one of the things it also does is prohibit weaponizing space. The problem is that OST was written and signed around 1967, before Star Trek gave us our first televised interracial kiss and before haters took from us MLK and RFK. We didn’t have half the technology or nuclear weapons that we have today. It’s a whole different world, figuratively, and kind of literally.

Moreover, OST simply is a treaty. For a nation to fear its impact is real, we need meaningful consequences here. If Russia isn’t afraid to kill thousands in Ukraine, in violation of numerous international agreements, why would it fear violating the OST by putting nuclear weapons into orbit?

When U.S. lawmakers sign up for their jobs, they likely have certain expectations. Intergalactic battles likely aren’t among them. But here we are. With Russia threatening to deploy nuclear-armed weapons into space, U.S. officials are in a new terrain. That being said, we must accept the fact that our disputes, both national, international and outside of this universe, are no longer limited to this planet.

 

That being the case, we need a whole new set of rules. And by rules, I mean laws. In mid-February, when news broke that the U.S. privately warned Russia not to deploy new nuclear- armed anti-satellite weapons in outer space, I kept scrolling down my feed. There are simply too many problems on this planet, or on this continent to be honest, for me to really give a damn. But now that I’ve had time to process it, I am utterly terrified, because we don’t have current laws and enforcement abilities in place, really, that reflect our current technological advancements, and the need to escape our current environmental crises.

 

Yeah, the world has an outer space treaty. And it’s cute, really, but it’s not all-encompassing, and it’s not really realistic. The outer space treaty, or OST as I like to call it, is a multilateral treaty that governs international space law. But one of the things it also does is prohibits weaponizing space. The problem is that OST was written and signed around 1967, before Star Trek gave us our first televised interracial kiss and before haters took from us MLK and RFK. We didn’t have half the technology or nuclear weapons that we have today. It’s a whole different world, figuratively, and kind of literally.

 

Moreover, OST simply is a treaty. For a nation to fear its impact is real, we need meaningful consequences here. If Russia isn’t afraid to kill thousands in Ukraine, in violation of numerous international agreements, why would it fear violating the OST by putting nuclear weapons into orbit?

 

Furthermore, we’d be foolish to just limit our fears to Russia when a U.S.-built spacecraft just landed on the moon for the first time in a half century due to the efforts of a private company. Billionaires are set to own extraterrestrial property, it appears. Between Mother Russia and King Capitalism, the fight for outer space is ever-concerning. And the reality of its domination is ever-present. There must be updated laws, restrictions, punishments, governing bodies, with sincere enforcement power and so forth. We can’t simply sit back and allow whomever can enter the terrain to control the destiny of our planet or of others.

 

Now, while I hate to sound imperialistic, we need to be realistic. And I’m not saying that it must be a U.S.-led effort, as I’m quite sure the United States already has its hands a little bit too far in too many cookie jars, and also has a history of being a little bit overbearing, shall we say. But what I am saying is that we must be prepared on a global scale. Nations must come together to lay the land in terms of what can and cannot be done in outer space, given the capitalistic-induced struggles our planet is currently facing, especially with climate. And those rules and regulations must be reflective of our current and prospective technological advancements, not really what we had back in the day, what 1967. Even though the climate crisis is killing us all, and the planet appears doomed if we don’t do something fast, we must be prepared for what our future holds off planet two, just in case there is potential for some kind of life out there. Because Lord knows that we may not be able to live here for very much longer, and the people who are here are destined to go to outer space.

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