The academic community weighs in on Outer Space Treaty

Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit.

Link here. They recognize the problem the Outer Space Treaty creates for property rights, but not surprisingly have trouble touching on the heart of the problem, that the treaty forbids the establishment of any nation’s laws on any territory in space.

Hertzfeld points out that the industry needs policies that address for-profit operations in space, particularly activities that will be managed or operated by the private sector. Until now, he says, most private sector activities have been narrow, but that could change as companies become more involved with satellites and in spaceflight. “How do you deal with property rights in space?” he said. “Ownership of these natural resources, mineral resources, up there? How do you deal with approaching satellites that are perhaps owned by someone else, particularly if it’s another nation’s satellite? How do you deal with debris that could cause accidents?”

“There are lots and lots of questions in how you do this internationally, because other nations are involved. These are the issues that are not clearly defined right now.”

Von der Dunk adds that there are still many countries that have no, or only a limited, national space law program. As a result, he says, in the implementation of the Outer Space Treaty, a divergence has grown that has led to gaps, inconsistencies and overlaps in domestic oversight. “Ideally, at the international level it would be good to have some form of harmonization at least of the approaches, noting that of course every sovereign state may have some individual idiosyncratic elements to deal with, but that idea has never moved beyond the stage of academic discussion,” von der Dunk said. “Sovereign states are not willing to comply with any serious effort to make this happen.”

I would love to know what “some form of harmonization” means.

Nonetheless, that this article was published in a major media outlet, which asked these academics about this issue, is once again evidence that people are finally recognizing the problems posed by the Outer Space Treaty, and are beginning to discuss ways for dealing with it.


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  • Ron

    Crap, I needed this article yesterday for school!! Keep up the good work Mr. Zimmerman!!

  • I’m not sure I see the problem. If a nation isn’t a signatory, the treaty isn’t binding. If they are a signatory, abrogate it. Sovereign means sovereign.

  • wayne

    Blair- excellent point.

    These “people” just want to export their marxism, into Space.
    Any one here, actually want the US Constitution, “harmonized,” with european-union laws? (Count me out.)

    This von der Dunk, is a piece of work:

    And here is his Consultancy Business:

  • LocalFluff

    I think all of this space law about property rights is nonsense.
    The US should simply declare unilaterally what rules are to be played in space. Others have to comply. They would, they have no choice. Problem solved.

  • LocalFluff

    “Dr. Frans von der Dunk, professor of space law”
    Oh, get real, please, I’m LMAF.

  • wayne

    Oh yeah, this guy, is a piece-of-work. He’s a…. “Mastermind.”

    (Have two links to his ridiculousness, awaiting moderation.)

    As to “harmonization,” if you love the European-union, you’ll love his “brilliant” plans for Space.

  • LocalFluff

    Parasites trying to greedily profit from the space revolution by holding it ransom for whatever sick reasons they try to imagine others. And they demand EVERYTHING as their price.

  • wayne

    Mark Levin:
    “The essence of modern environmental movements”
    (audio from 07-22-2015)

  • Edward

    If a country signs a treaty but then casually violates it, who can trust that country the next time?

    If everyone violates a treaty, then we end up with the chaos that the treaty was supposed to avoid.

    It is much better to create a treaty that everyone can abide. That way, everyone remains trustworthy, and you have a reasonable treaty. If you want to do business with others, being trustworthy is important.

  • Garry

    Edward, that concept extends beyond treaties.

    Take the speed limit, for example. People routinely drive well over the speed limit, because police generally don’t enforce it, arguably because the limits are not realistic (particularly on a busy highway where everyone else is exceeding the limit).

    That leaves us with the perfect recipe for a police state, where almost anybody can be selectively charged with disobeying the law.

    The solution is similar to what you propose; set reasonable speed limits and enforce them.

    The rule of law truly is the key to a civil (non police state) society.

  • LocalFluff

    Best is to spell out a law that everyone will HAVE TO abide with. No room for any negotiation.

    The US is the only space power today. What do you think that the politicians in China and Russia would bring to the table that improves on what the US would decide? What makes you think that they are wiser and more benevolent?

    If other governments had any real space influence to talk about, then let’s have a 1888 Berlin conference among those who count and split up the colonies. Like a new scramble for Africa. It would be a big fat mistake to give any influence to parties that cannot assert themselves.

  • Edward

    You asked: “What makes you think that they are wiser and more benevolent?

    I don’t know what I said to make you think that I think this.

    “What do you think that the politicians in China and Russia would bring to the table that improves on what the US would decide?”

    Nothing. Politicians are ignoramuses. They only care about their next election and what can help them get reelected. This is the road to corruption.

    However, I think that Chinese, Russian, European, and Indian engineers and scientists can bring a lot to the table. I also think that British, Luxembourger, Italian, UAE, Japanese, and many, many other business men could bring even more to the table. In 1968, we let the ignoramuses dictate space policy, but we now have many people experienced in exploring space, in doing business in space, and in creating new businesses in space. They should have far more influence than the politicians, who screw it up.

  • LocalFluff

    So what? The dictate of the US, when proclaiming all of space its territory, would allow for foreign individuals to join their rules of the game. Hasn’t the US always done that?

    Why make any kind of “treaty” by corrupting with the tyrants? Just spell out the rules and then enforce them by immediately exterminating anyone who tries to violate them, and in a horrible way until such unconditional and humiliating subjugation that it discourages anyone else to ever make another attempt. No negotiation. No “treaty”. Just rules and all violence necessary to enforce them. And the rules change at will. The subjugated inferior parties, like China and Russia, better comply very very eagerly and enthusiastically. They can keep their opinions to themselves. No reason to even listen to their BS. One way communication only: Command and obedience. “Treaty” means politicians playing games, that’s good for no one.

    If you don’t do this while you can, the others will do it to you!

  • Edward

    You asked: “Hasn’t the US always done that?

    Has the US ever done that? When was the last time the US proclaimed something as its territory without any of the traditional, internationally accepted laws of territory?

    The US has gained territories by way of its revolution from King George, purchases from other countries, wars, claiming California after Mexico gave it up. The US has also helped The Philippines become an independent country, when they requested independence after being captured in a war. The US made sure that Mexico remained an independent country after capturing it in a war, and that was a rare event, at that time. The US also landed on the Moon, and rather than claim it for itself, claimed it for all mankind.

    The only time that the US ever gained territory in an unconventional way was when the US and Canada agreed that the 49th parallel was the border between the two countries, then agreeing that a small piece of territory above the 49th parallel was US territory, not Canadian, because the population in that small part above the 49th parallel insisted that they were American citizens, not Canadian.

    Perhaps, LocalFluff, you have confused the actions of Britain, Spain, Portugal, Germany, France, and a few others with the actions of the US. Those countries showed up in various parts of the world and proclaimed those areas as their own territories.

    So what?

    It is unclear as to what you are so-whatting. Nothing that I wrote has anything to do with any dictates of the US, the US proclaiming all of space as its territory, or allowing foreign individuals to join the US’s rules of the game (whatever those rules or the game may be).

    Why make any kind of ‘treaty’ by corrupting with the tyrants? Just spell out the rules and then enforce them by immediately exterminating anyone who tries to violate them, and in a horrible way until such unconditional and humiliating subjugation that it discourages anyone else to ever make another attempt.

    Who is it that you consider to be the tyrants? The way you explain your idea, it seems that you believe that the US should suddenly start behaving as a tyrant, fickle with its rules and with malice toward some.

    If you don’t do this while you can, the others will do it to you!

    You keep suggesting that the US become a bad actor on the world (and space) scene. The implication being that the US is so strong that it can enforce its own brand of tyranny on others or on the whole world. But, how would others impose their form of tyranny on such a strong United States?

    Every time that you have made this suggestion, these past few weeks or months, you have confused me as to what you are talking about and what you truly want the US to do. At first I thought you were being sarcastic, but this conversation has me thinking that you are actually serious, that you want the US to be a terrible neighbor.

  • wodun

    There are a lot of conflicting opinions about the OST and whether or not we should be in it. Laura Montgomery has some good thoughts on the Space Show and in shorter form on JBS.

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