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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.