Tag Archives: United Nations

China offers its space station to the UN

The United Nations and China have signed an agreement whereby UN member nations can apply to run experiments on China’s space station, due to become operational in the 2020s.

The UN press release states that it is especially interested in applications from developing nations.

This isn’t a surprise. China is following the approach of the Soviet Union under Leonid Brezhnev during the 1970s and 1980s, using its space station program to generate positive international propaganda. This will also give them an opportunity to obtain technology ideas from other nations.

At the same time, this will force China to become more open with other nations, a side effect of Brezhnev’s space station program that was not expected or even wanted by the Russians at the time.

Share

United States to pull out from UNESCO

The United States has announced that it is exiting entirely from UNESCO due to its anti-Israel bias and the lack of any reform within the organization.

The U.S. stopped funding UNESCO after it voted to include Palestine as a member in 2011, but the State Department has maintained a UNESCO office and sought to weigh on policy behind the scenes. The U.S. now owes about $550 million in back payments.

In a statement, the State Department said the decision will take effect Dec. 31, 2018, and that the U.S. will seek a “permanent observer” status instead. It cited U.S. belief in “the need for fundamental reform in the organization.”

…U.S. officials said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made the decision and that it was not discussed with other countries but was the result of an internal U.S. government deliberation. The officials, who were not authorized to be publicly named discussing the issue, said the U.S. is notably angry over UNESCO resolutions denying Jewish connections to holy sites and references to Israel as an occupying power.

The article notes that this happened back in the 1980s, but fails to mention that it was President Reagan who did it, and faced harsh criticism from the usual liberal suspects in the mainstream press and academia. In the end, however, the 1980s pull out worked. UNESCO made reforms, and the U.S. rejoined in 2003.

Share

A modern academic looks at the Outer Space Treaty

Link here. 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.

Share

UN announces proposed Dream Chaser international mission

Capitalism in space: The Outer Space office of the United Nations has announced an opportunity for member nations to express their interest in doing a science mission using Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser reusable spaceship.

The UN announcement states that

The purpose of this Call for Interest (CFI) is to provide a summary of the proposed mission and to solicit information from Member States interested in providing experiments, payloads, or satellites that could be flown on this mission. The CFI also has the objective of gathering information on the interested countries so that UNOOSA may better understand the demand for this type of mission.

The actual call [pdf] roughly describes a mission lasting 2 to 3 weeks and carrying about 20 experiments. This call is designed to give them a better idea of what those experiments might be, what nations wish to participate, and where the funding for the mission might come from. The actual announcement to submit experiment proposals won’t come until March 2018.

Being a UN mission, it is not surprising that it wants to focus on a variety of leftwing “Sustainable Development Goals”:
» Read more

Share

International group forms to get UN protection of Apollo sites

An international group of lawyers, academics, and business people has formed an organization called “For All Moonkind,” aimed specifically at getting UN protections for the six lunar Apollo sites.

They are going to the UN because, based on the Outer Space Treaty, this is the only place that has jurisdiction. Unfortunately. This quote illustrates why:

“Though we are based in the US, we are an international organization,” said Michelle Hanlon, US space lawyer and Co-Founder of For All Moonkind. “Humaid Alshamsi [the UAE participant] brings tremendous experience in public and private aviation and space law to our team. We are thrilled that he has agreed to join our effort.”

For All Moonkind was critical of the auction by Sotheby’s of the Apollo 11 Contingency Lunar Sample Return Bag used by astronaut Neil Armstrong. “The astronauts of the Apollo project represented all of us here on Earth,” explained aviation and space lawyer and Advisory Council Member Humaid Alshamsi, “they went to the Moon in peace for all, and the relics of their historic achievement should be shared by all. The loss of this artifact to a private collector is a loss for humanity.”

The Outer Space Treaty forbids any nation from claiming territory in space, thus leaving it under the control of the UN and the international community, a community that — as demonstrated by this quote — is hostile to capitalism and private enterprise. While I laud this group’s desire to protect these historic sites, I fear their actions are going to place limits on the freedoms and property rights of future space colonists.

Share

Hamas has made Gaza unliveable, according to the UN

A UN study has found that in the ten years since Hamas took control of Gaza the place has become unliveable for its residents.

A decade after the Islamist group Hamas seized Gaza, the Palestinian enclave is effectively unliveable for its 2 million people, with declining incomes, healthcare, education, electricity and fresh water, the United Nations said.

In a report examining humanitarian conditions in the territory, which Hamas took over in June 2007 after a brief conflict with forces loyal to the Palestinian Authority, the United Nations concludes the situation in Gaza is deteriorating “further and faster” than was forecast only a few years ago. “Across the board we’re watching de-development in slow motion,” Robert Piper, the UN Coordinator for Humanitarian Aid and Development Activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday. “Every indicator, from energy to water to healthcare to employment to poverty to food insecurity, every indicator is declining. Gazans have been going through this slow motion de-development now for a decade.”

The article tries to lay the blame on everyone, including Israel, while somehow ignoring the corruption and terrorist roots of Hamas itself. Still, the real blame might belong to the people in Gaza themselves. After Israel unilaterally pulled out in an effort to exchange “land for peace,” the people of Gaza voted for their own leadership, and choose Hamas, a terrorist organization whose reason for existing is to kill Jews and destroy Israel. After making a poor decision like that, no one should be surprised it their circumstances immediately began to decline. We all get the government we deserve.

Share

Cruz to hold hearing on updating Outer Space Treaty

Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) revealed today that he plans to hold a hearing next week on reviewing the Outer Space Treaty.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said in an on-stage interview during The Atlantic magazine’s “On the Launchpad” event here that the hearing, scheduled for May 23, would explore modifications to the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 to better enable commercial space activities. “We’ll be hearing testimony both from lawyers who have studied the issues and also from business leaders that want to expand commercial investment in space,” he said, “considering how do we update and modernize the treaty to reflect the realities of the modern world.”

He said he was concerned that the treaty, crafted at the height of the superpower space race of the 1960s, does not reflect the needs and interests of emerging commercial space companies. “The central focus of that treaty was preventing nuclear weapons in space. That’s a very good thing,” he said. “But, 50 years later, we’re in a very different environment.”

Cruz said he didn’t have specific changes to the treaty in mind. “I don’t want to start by making decisions before we hear testimony and before we think through it,” he said. He added he hoped that, like recent space-related legislation that has passed Congress, including the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act of 2015, to win bipartisan agreement to pursue efforts to “modernize it to create the incentives for continued investment.”

I had sensed this might be Cruz’s next move, based on the last hearing, and it is gratifying that he is going to go forward with it.

Update: The list of witnesses can be found here. The committee webpage also says they will be focusing on Article VI of the Outer Space Treaty, which does not discuss the issue of sovereignty (Article II). Instead, Article VI says this:

States Parties to the Treaty shall bear international responsibility for national activities in outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, whether such activities are carried on by governmental agencies or by non-governmental entities, and for assuring that national activities are carried out in conformity with the provisions set forth in the present Treaty. The activities of non-governmental entities in outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, shall require authorization and continuing supervision by the appropriate State Party to the Treaty. When activities are carried on in outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, by an international organization, responsibility for compliance with this Treaty shall be borne both by the international organization and by the States Parties to the Treaty participating in such organization.

I begin to sense the direction this negotiation will head. Rather than claim sovereignty, they will rework this clause to allow each nation’s laws to apply to the activities of their citizens. In a sense, this is an end-around Article II.

Share

U.S. space law versus UN Outer Space Treaty

In its effort to provide legal protections to private companies attempting to do asteroid mining, it appears that the U.S.’s most recent space law directly contradicts the UN Outer Space Treaty.

The United States recently passed a law that contains an article that directly concerns asteroid mining and legalizes it. This law is the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act (CSLCA), which was signed into law by President Obama in 2015. The CSLCA addresses resource extraction in Article IV, and states, “A U.S. citizen engaged in commercial recovery of an asteroid resource or a space resource shall be entitled to any asteroid resource or space resource obtained, including to possess, own, transport, use, and sell it according to applicable law, including U.S. international obligations.”

The issue here is that US law is in opposition to a UN treaty, to which the US is a signatory. The Outer Space Treaty is one of the oldest and most important agreements in the history of international space policy. Under the Outer Space Treaty, asteroid mining is illegal, since it is an appropriation of a celestial body by a State. Since the human being or organization that is doing the resource extraction is under the purview of some State, that State is responsible for the actions that are done by the nationals or organizations that are doing the mining.

This responsibility was given to the State by the sixth article of the OST and is strengthened by the Liability Convention of 1972. Since the State is responsible and liable for the actions done by their nationals, this means that the State could be interpreted as appropriating the asteroid.

I am surprised and encouraged to see two different articles about the problems of the Outer Space Treaty appear in the press less than a week after my op-ed on the very subject. I am sure there is no connection, other than the subject is increasingly topical, and others are recognizing the same things I am. Still, that these stories are appearing suggests that the chances are increasing that something will finally be done to either change or abandon the treaty.

Share

Luxembourg rejects proposed space legislation because of Outer Space Treaty

Luxembourg’s legislature has rejected a proposed space regulatory framework because it did not address the legal restrictions on property rights imposed by the United Nations Outer Space Treaty.

Schneider, the deputy prime minister and minister for economy, presented a bill whose objective was to set a legal framework and give legal security to the property of minerals and other valuable resources in space, in particular on asteroids, and to regulate the authorisation and surveillance of both exploration and mining missions.

In a formal opinion published on 7 April, the council noted that private property claims are illegal or at least not legally binding in most of the international treaties and agreements relating to space and celestial bodies.

Neither the UN treaty on principles governing the activities of states in the exploration and use of outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies of 1967, nor the agreement governing the activities of states on the moon and other celestial bodies of 1979 (which was not ratified by Luxembourg) answer the question of private property of space resources.

What is most important here is that the Luxembourg government now intends to “to ask for a revision of the question of property in the Outer Space Treaty.” As I said in my op-ed in The Federalist on Monday, nations are increasingly recognizing that the Outer Space Treaty is a problem for property rights, and needs to be revised. Otherwise, private development will be difficult if not impossible.

Share

New Zimmerman op-ed in The Federalist

As I noted earlier in the week, my op-ed outlining my proposed Trump space policy was today published in The Federalist. The title: “How President Trump Could Jumpstart Space Settlements.” The key quote:

So what should Trump do? At this moment he has a wonderful opportunity to put his stamp on the future, and steer the entire human race to the stars. Trump should propose a new Outer Space Treaty, superseding the old, that would let nations plant their flags in space. This new treaty should establish the rules by which individual nations can claim territory and establish their law and sovereignty on other worlds or asteroids.

From here I go into great detail about how that new treaty would function, laying out how it would encourage the peaceful settlement of the solar system while encouraging private enterprise and the establishing of law and freedom for future space settlers.

Read it all.

Share

Republicans prepare legislation to defund UN

While both houses of Congress are moving forward on meaningless condemnations of the UN’s vote declaring the Oslo Accords null and Israel’s presence in parts of Jerusalem illegal, Republicans in both houses are also preparing legislation that will actually cut funding to the UN.

The right-wing House Freedom Caucus will meet next Monday to decide between two proposals to bring to the House. One would be to reduce American funding to the UN. The other, more aggressive proposal is to make funding voluntary, thus leaving it to Congress every two years to decide whether to continue contributing to the organization. “One is an incremental step, the other is really a herculean leap,” said Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows.

These ideas also have strong support by a number of Senators. I am hopeful that Congress will go beyond a mere condemnation and pass something that will actually cause the UN some pain.

Share

Dream Chaser to fly 14-day UN mission in 2021

The competition heats up: Sierra Nevada today signed a deal with the United Nations to fly a 14-day mission in 2021 using Dream Chaser.

The first-ever United Nations space mission is intended to launch in 2021 and will allow United Nations Member States to participate in a 14-day flight to low-Earth orbit (LEO) on SNC’s Dream Chaser spacecraft. “One of UNOOSA’s core responsibilities is to promote international cooperation in the peaceful use of outer space,” said Simonetta Di Pippo, director of UNOOSA. “I am proud to say that one of the ways UNOOSA will achieve this, in cooperation with our partner SNC, is by dedicating an entire microgravity mission to United Nations Member States, many of which do not have the infrastructure or financial backing to have a standalone space program.”

According to Ms. Di Pippo, funding of the mission will come from multiple sources. “We will continue to work closely with SNC to define the parameters of this mission which, in turn, will provide United Nations Member States with the ability to access space in a cost-effective and collaborative manner within a few short years. The possibilities are endless.” Countries selected to provide mission payloads will be asked to pay a pro-rated portion of the mission cost, based on the resources required to host the payload and their ability to pay. In addition, major sponsors are being sought to finance a large portion of the mission costs.

While the press today is in a feeding frenzy writing stories about Elon Musk’s speech, they are ignoring this story. Yet, this deal between the UN and Sierra Nevada is actually far more important. Musk’s proposals, while exciting and important in how they move the conversation of space exploration forward, are mostly Powerpoint fantasies. He does not have customers for his interplanetary transportation system. He does not have a rocket. All he has is the Raptor engine, which is only beginning its design testing. It will be years before any of his proposals here become real.

This UN/Sierra Nevada deal however is reality. A private American company is building a spaceship that it is now selling successfully to third world nations. Actual money will change hands. Profit will be earned. And Sierra Nevada will be in a position to use those earnings to upgrade and advance its designs. This will be the future, far sooner than Elon Musk’s International Transportation System.

Share

UN Secretary-General declares climate change debate ‘over’

The certainty of politics: In a newspaper interview on Thursday UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon declared, without doubt, that the scientific debate on human-caused global warming “is over”.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Thursday that his greatest achievement at the helm of the world’s biggest international organization was last year’s climate change accord in Paris, and he expressed open frustration that Republicans in the U.S. continue to obstruct President Obama and to politicize the subject. “The debate on science and the debate on politics as far as climate change is concerned is over,” Mr. Ban told The Washington Times in an exclusive interview. “Still, the Republican Party, they are not convinced.

“There should be no political consideration on this,” he said. “There should be no room for politics to get involved.” [emphasis mine]

I am so glad that this politician, not a scientist, knows so much about the climate field that he can dictate the future research of scientists. I am so glad that this politician, not a scientist, thinks he has the ability to tell skeptics to shut up. And I am so glad that this politician, not a scientist, can demand that skeptics shut up because he wants to keep politics out of science. (Note the irony and hypocrisy here.)

I find it most interesting that whenever anyone raises questions about the theory of human-caused global warming, the response by its advocates is almost never to discuss the actual data, but to tell the questioners to shut up, and to insist the debate is settled, even though the very existence of those questioners proves it is not.

Share

Sierra Nevada signs deal with UN

The competition heats up: Sierra Nevada has signed a memorandum of understanding with the United Nations, creating the framework for UN member nations to use its Dream Chaser cargo vehicle for science research.

Under the agreement, [Sierra Nevada] committed to dedicating one or more Dream Chaser missions that will host payloads from member countries. The cooperation will focus on developing an interface control document and payload hosting guide to allow payloads developed by participating countries, especially non-space-faring ones, to be flown into orbit.

What this means is that American space technology, developed and owned privately rather than built by NASA, is beginning to grab business wherever it can find it. These UN space missions eventually flown on Dream Chaser might be foreign built, but it will be the American spacecraft that gets them to space..Sierra Nevada will not only make money doing so, it will position itself financially to develop even better space products that it can sell worldwide. Nor will Sierra Nevada be alone in this. The result will be the increasing prosperity of the American aerospace industry as it gains a larger share in the settlement of the solar system.

Share

Luxembourg to establish space property rights

The competition heats up: The government of Luxembourg today announced an initiative to establish a legal framework that will ensure property rights in space for private investors.

The Luxembourg Government announced a series of measures to position Luxembourg as a European hub in the exploration and use of space resources. Amongst the key steps undertaken, as part of the spaceresources.lu initiative, will be the development of a legal and regulatory framework confirming certainty about the future ownership of minerals extracted in space from Near Earth Objects (NEO’s) such as asteroids.

Luxembourg is the first European country to announce its intention to set out a formal legal framework which ensures that private operators working in space can be confident about their rights to the resources they extract, i.e. rare minerals from asteroids. Such a legal framework will be worked out in full consideration of international law. Luxembourg is eager to engage with other countries on this matter within a multilateral framework.

The announcement is a bit vague about what exactly Luxembourg really plans to do. For example, it is unclear if this framework will only apply to Luxembourg citizens, or will be used to bring the private efforts from other countries to Luxembourg (the more likely scenario). It also does not tell us how the initiative will deal with the UN Outer Space Treaty, which essentially outlaws countries from establishing their own legal framework in space. Individuals can supposedly own private property in space under that treaty, but no country can claim territory or impose its own legal framework on any territory, thus making any private property claims unclear and weak.

Share

UN finds that only Israel violates women’s rights

Time to pull out of the UN: The women’s rights panel of the United Nations has declared that only one nation in the entire world oppresses women, and that nation is Israel.

As the article notes, this UN propaganda panel for attacking Israel somehow couldn’t notice any abuse in Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Yemen, and China, all of which have clearly known policies that persecute women in the worst ways.

Why we keep funding this travesty only suggests to me that our elected leaders approve of this and want to see Israel attacked while letting the real persecutors get away with it.

Share

“We’re just not interested in continuing to support bureaucracies and talkfests.”

Canada to the UN environmental movement: “We’re just not interested in continuing to support bureaucracies and talkfests.”

The country has pulled out of a UN program supposedly aimed at “combating desertification,” noting that

only 18% of the roughly CAD$350,000 per year that Canada contributed to the U.N. initiative is “actually spent on programming,” [Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper] told Parliament this week during question period. “The rest goes to various bureaucratic measures. … It’s not an effective way to spend taxpayers’ money.”

As is their normal approach to debate, there is a lot of wailing, gnashing of teeth, and name-calling among the environmentalists, but no substantive response to counter Harper’s point above.

Share

Building a real Peace Forest in Israel

Dedication to the Peace Forest
One of the plaques inside the Peace Forest

Just after the 1967 war, a strip of land in Jerusalem that had been part of no man’s land after the city was divided following the 1948 war was turned into a Peace Forest to symbolize “the hope for peace and serenity between all Jerusalem’s residents.” Located on a hillside that overlooks the city, the Jewish National Fund sponsored a campaign to have the site landscaped elegantly, with a promenade and a series of architectural observation points, each designed differently as if their architects were competing with each other for the most creative structure.

In 2003 my oldest nephew was married from the highest point on this hillside, just above the Peace Forest, with the entire city of Jerusalem as the backdrop. At the time there was a catering hall at this location, and it seemed to them to be a perfect place to tie the knot.
» Read more

Share

A petition to have the U.S. withdraw from the United Nations Outer Space Treaty has been submitted to the White House.

Now’s here’s a good idea: A petition to have the U.S. withdraw from the United Nations Outer Space Treaty has been submitted to the White House.

Read it. Mark Whittington, who submitted it, is absolutely right. We get out, we can claim territory on the Moon and thus apply U.S. law to that territory. People and companies could thus own land and have an opportunity to make a profit from their property.

Share