Outer space is not the “Wild West”

(ORDO NEWS) — The release of the first images from the James Webb Space Telescope showed us the endless possibilities that open space.

It is clear that we have a responsibility to ensure that there is only peaceful, safe, sustainable and legal use of space for the benefit of all mankind.

To achieve this goal, over the past 6 years, McGill University and many collaborating institutions around the world have been involved in the development of the McGill Guide to International Law Applicable to the Military Use of Outer Space.

In August, the first volume of the McGill Manual was published. It contains 52 rules adopted by consensus of a group of experts.

They clarify the rules of international law applicable to all space activities carried out in times of peace and in times of tension.

The human costs and consequences of conflicts in space can be catastrophic. We must understand that outer space is not the Wild West.

After the launch of the first artificial satellite into Earth orbit in 1957, there was a clear consensus that outer space, planets and asteroids should be explored and used in accordance with international law, including the Charter of the United Nations.

These fundamental principles are developed in a number of UN treaties on space law, signed by almost all space powers.

In addition, with the increase in the number of commercial and private space operators, countries are enacting national space laws to regulate and oversee that all national space activities are carried out in accordance with international law.

A significant body of international norms and legal principles apply to all space activities, including military activities.

However, in some cases they may be interpreted in different ways, leading to confusion, ambiguity and uncertainty.

The McGill Guide is an independent and impartial document that explains and confirms that existing laws are relevant and applicable to new businesses.

These laws impose restrictions on irresponsible and dangerous activities and respond to new challenges in outer space.

More than 80 legal and technical experts contributed to the development of this guide. They reaffirmed, for example, that there is an absolute ban on the testing and use of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons in space, and that harming the space resources of other states is illegal.

The experts also emphasized that the right to self-defence in connection with military space activities must take into account the unique legal and physical aspects of outer space.

Space is a shared global asset, and the actions of one country or company will have repercussions for everyone else.

The publication of the McGill Handbook marks an important milestone in supporting ongoing international efforts.

These internationally agreed laws should serve as the basis for peaceful exploration and cooperation in space. The fate of mankind depends on this.


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