The Moon Agreement

The United Nations-negotiated Moon Agreement, which was submitted to member states for ratification in December 1979, is intended to supplement the Outer Space Treaty (which today binds all of the space powers). It calls for the establishment of a legal regime to govern the use of the Moon and other celestial bodies, as well as orbits and trajectories within the solar system. Echoing the language of the concurrently-negotiated Third Convention on the Law of the Sea, the Moon Agreement declares the Moon “the common heritage of all mankind” and calls for the creation of an international governing body to ensure the safe, orderly, and equitable development and management of its resources and benefits. It further bans any state from claiming sovereignty over any lunar or other space territory and articulates a number of constraints on the uses that can be made of such celestial bodies (e.g., that they may not be used for weapon testing or military bases; that materials removed must be for scientific purposes, the results of which must be shared with other member states, and so forth). Today, only 16 states are party to the Agreement, none of which are space powers. It remains, however, the only internationally-recognized articulation of first principles for the development of lunar resources, and thus is thought by many to be the basis upon which future efforts to fix stable property rights in He-3 extraction must be predicated.

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