17 October 2008. National as well as international initiatives, including those of ESA and its Member States, are targeting the Moon as an object for new robotic and human missions. But does there exist a reliable international legal framework for these activities? “ESPI Perspectives 14” on “The Moon Treaty: its effectiveness in the 21st century” raises one of the most topical questions on the legal framework for space exploration.
While in the 1960s, in the context of the Cold War, the decision to land humans on the Moon was perceived as a strategic political instrument between the two blocs, now in the 21st century, a considerably increased number of space actors complicate the scene with multiple sectorial and national interests. Security still prevails although economic considerations play an increasing role. Commercialization and privatization of space activities leads to new challenges raising the issue of the role of the international legal framework.
In this context, the Agreement Governing the Activities of the States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies of 1979 (known as the Moon Agreement) should be able to play a relevant role. There are several political and legal questions that arise for discussion. At its forty-sixth session, the Legal Subcommittee of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNCOPUOS) decided to include in the forty-seventh session of the Subcommittee in 2008 a discussion on the activities being carried out or to be carried out on the Moon and other celestial bodies. The result is a joint statement by State Parties to the Agreement. This issue of “ESPI Perspectives” addresses the questions raised during these discussions and provides in the historical part documentation which is not publicly available. It also provides a look into the near future regarding the establishment of a reliable legal framework for space exploration.
Antonella Bini, UNOOSA
The author of this issue of “ESPI Perspectives”, Antonella Bini, works for the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) as an Associate Expert in Space Law and Policy. From March 2005 to June 2006 she worked in ESPI as Political/Legal Analyst dealing mainly with issues related to the governance and implementation of the European Space Policy and the relationship between the European Space Agency and the European Union. She holds a degree in Political Sciences - International Affairs from “La Sapienza” University of Rome.