Legal Research and Strategy
Unfortunately, the path to preservation of our heritage in space is complicated.
The Outer Space Treaty is silent with respect to human heritage in outer space.
- Pursuant to Article VIII of the Outer Space Treaty, items left on the Moon remain under the jurisdiction, ownership and control of the nation that was responsible for putting them there.
- Therefore, no one other than the original launching state has the right to handle or remove the item.
- But leaving the object untouched in situ essentially results in perpetual occupation of the surface upon which they rest.
- This runs afoul of the principle of non-appropriation encapsulated in Article II of the Outer Space Treaty.
- Leaving any of the lunar landing sites untouched gives rise to the appearance that those sites belong to a sovereign state. They do not.
Article IX of the Outer Space Treaty also requires all activities in outer space be conducted with “due regard to the corresponding interests of all other States Parties,” which, many argue, suggests that other States should not interfere with or otherwise despoil the objects — including heritage objects — of another.
But what does “due regard” even mean? It’s a term that has never been legally defined in this context.
Importantly, too, the Outer Space Treaty deals with objects, not the sites themselves, or the features on the site, like bootprints and rover tracks.
NASA has offered Guidelines on “How to Protect and Preserve” US lunar artifacts.
- These Guidelines cover only US artifacts and US sites. What about Luna, Lunakhod, Yutu, Chandrayaan and many other soft and hard landing sites? Wouldn’t it be beneficial to have uniform heritage guidelines in place?
- The Guidelines pertain only to the Moon. What about sites on Mars? On-orbit?
- The Guidelines are “Recommendations” only. They are not enforceable laws. And they only apply to US nationals.
- While many spacefaring entities have agreed to abide by NASA’s Guidelines so far, space is getting crowded and we cannot assume that every space actor in the future will be willing to accede to US regulation.
All the landing sites, regardless of the launching state, represent the shared heritage of all humankind and should be recognized, managed and protected accordingly.
For All Moonkind anticipates a four-step process that will lead to a solution: 1) mapping, 2) identification, 3) recognition and 4) voluntary protocols or guidelines leading to multilateral agreement.
Members of our Legal Council are actively contributing to the discourse regarding legal, commercial and ethical issues arising from space exploration and the potential development of a space economy by preparing and presenting thought-leadership papers at conferences and conventions around the world.
We have also formed several multidisciplinary working groups to address and solve specific issues, including:
- The For All Moonkind Moon Registry Working Group is working closely with our partners at TODAQ to develop and maintain a decentralized grid-referenced blockchain ledger of sites and artifacts on the Moon.
- Once mapped and identified, the Registry Working Group will start to consider how sites will be managed and what levels of protection they should require.
- The For All Moonkind Heritage Declaration Working Group is developing nonbinding preservation guidelines by which commercial and other spacefaring entities may volunteer to abide. A copy of the Declaration can be found here.
- The For All Moonkind Structural Development Working Group is looking at the rich history of the United Nations and the model of our most successful multilateral treaties and conventions to design and test possible structure to promote international adoption of space heritage preservation protocols. You can review their proposed definition of heritage in outer space here.
Our entire leadership team is voluntary. We are driven by passion – for space and for humanity. After all, as Dr. Scott Pace has said, “what we do in space and how we do it reflects our values and not just our technologies.”