Can any international space organisation or a private space player claim on the discovery they made in outer space or on the celestial object they mine in space? What about the ambitious dreams of companies who are in neck throat competition with each other to set foot on celestial objects and other planets. Can they claim ownership?
It’s a fact that outer space is no one’s jurisdiction at least on papers it is not possible. Space is free from all domain. All states are free to explore anything beyond earth peacefully. They are free to explore planets, moon and celestial bodies. But in doing so, can any state stake claim that ‘I find it first, hence its mine’? The Outer Space Treaty,1967 prohibits any such thing. According to article 1, outer space shall be free from exploration and use by all states without discrimination of any kind, in accordance with international law and shall be free to access. With same principle, article 2 states that outer space is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty by means of use or occupation or by any other means. But USA in 2015 passed US Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act which some experts suggested that such a law has override the Outer Space Treaty as according to this law, a US company can be an owner and seller of whatever material they extract from the moon, asteroids and other celestial bodies in space including their finding after mining any celestial body.
So now question is, is such an act constitutes violate international space treaty? And what could be done to avoid conflict because at this point of time state space agencies are exploring space at horse speed. Also Outer Space Treaty is not clear as to how its provision regarding no claim of space applies on private companies as an international treaty like international law is not strictly binding on the subjects. Space mining work is in progressive stage with space agencies and non- governmental players have started mining asteroids to extract minerals and water resources present on it. If any state start claiming on any natural space object on ‘first reach, first acquire’ basis, it might become a subject of tension among rest of the world as very soon human race will return to moon for living etc.
For this, besides international cooperation, a separate set of rules and regulations is needed and efforts must initiate among all nation to address this as soon as possible. Amendment in Outer Space Treaty will not be suffice. As law is a subject in which research is non- empirical and suggestive, so in depth research needs to be carried on with the aid of country’s space agencies and non-governmental entities to find a possible solution.
” Human species has drawn line on the earth to possess their territory and land but space must be free of such shackles “…