Who owns space? Corporate attorney, Justine Kasznica, addresses the question at a TEDx talk in Budapest.
Good afternoon, it’s an honor to be here in your beautiful city. Thank you. I want you to imagine for a moment that you are a real space entrepreneur. You know that the moon has valuable resources, resources that can serve to benefit mankind. So you build a company that is going to go to the moon to mine and extricate these resources and bring them back to Earth. Unfortunately space is not cheap and so you’ll need to raise money to make this happen.
Is it legal?
You talked to a number of investors and corporate partners and one investor takes you aside and says, “I really love what you’re doing. I believe in it, I believe in your team, I believe in you, but answer me this: is it legal?” So I ask you what if the life and death of your company depended on the answer to that question and what if the only answer you could give your investor is that the laws are at best uncertain.
I want to focus on the moon for three reasons first, the moon is the Earth’s closest celestial neighbor two second, the moon is a great stepping stone to outer space and other celestial bodies and three the moon contains these natural resources of great potential value to us. Resources such as water, helium three and rare earth minerals what we call rare earth minerals.
A honeymoon for all nations
And so I invite you to join me on a journey for a moment, imagine a world where every nation on earth no matter how big or how small how rich or how poor, can have its own very own Apollo moment, imagine a world where we can actually go to the moon and mine these valuable resources and bring them back to earth for our benefit and the benefit of future generations here on earth, imagine a time when you can actually take a real honeymoon and vacation for a week on the moon in a hotel.
The innovators and entrepreneurs of space
Imagine a time when you can live, work and play on the moon and raise your children on the moon, imagine the moon as a History Museum where you one day take your children to this site and show them where men took his first steps on the moon. Imagine the moon as your billboard a platform for you to communicate your message and your unique brand to the rest of the world and they’ve just announced that they’ll be the first soft drink on the moon. Imagine the moon as your canvas your platform for your creative artistic expression, where you can quite literally build art on the moon this is a project from Sweden by the artist me collagen Berg called a house on the moon now.Thank you for that journey.
We have good news and we have bad news, the good news is that everything that you just saw all of those are the ideas are no longer a thing of science fiction. Behind every one of those ideas is an innovator an entrepreneur a company that is willing to make this happen and working diligently day in day out to make it so, the cost of space is dramatically decreasing and can will continue to decrease in the time ahead and we have companies today who are offering to take these ideas with them and take them deliver them to the moon, but we do have some bad news, the bad news is that law and the legal of space legal regime has not yet caught up with the technological advancement that we see.
Friends the legal regime has its history in a very particular and very tragic chapter in human history, the Cold War. It’s nine hundred fifty eight and the Russians have just launched Sputnik the first artificial satellite to orbit the earth. This sends ripple waves of fear and concern across the globe. My God if the Russians can send a satellite surely they can send a nuclear weapon.
Outer space treaties
Perhaps they can turn their rockets into ballistic missiles and in response to this the UN created the commission for the peaceful uses of outer space and about ten years later in 1967, the Outer Space Treaty was signed today that treaty has one hundred two signatories from around the globe, the Outer Space Treaty made it clear that nuclear weapons, articles of War had no place in outer space and instead outer space was reserved for the providence of all of us of a mankind to do with for peace and prosperity of men the outer space treaty also outline however, that no nation could have sovereignty over outer space or have any kind of occupational possession rights in outer space.
Indeed nations were tired with full responsibility of any activities that would occur in outer space and would take full responsibility for what occurred as a result of that there’s a lot of uncertainty and ambiguity with regard to what can we as nations as non-governmental organizations and individuals and companies do in space and the large there’s many legal theorists out there who speculate that given how the Outer Space Treaty is written that answer is very uncertain and potentially fraught with peril.
In nine hundred and seventy nine the Moon Treaty was proposed and that she took this to the next level. They articulated the principal of heritage of mankind and expressly for bait either state agencies state actors or non-governmental actors from ever having any ownership rights over resources or actual land in space and on the end on the moon.
Fortunately for the innovators amongst us the Moon Treaty was only ratified by thirteen nations and none of those nations are any of the space faring nations in the world today, so that the legitimacy of that treaty is in question and all is not lost we have glimmers of hope on the horizon in two thousand and six, thirteen of the space agencies in the world came together to create something called the global exploration strategy accord nation of framework and that essentially outlined create a roadmap for the importance of addressing commercial innovation in space, including over time for each of the nation states to really create legal regimes that would enhance and enable commercialization of space.
Space exploration colaboration and cordination
In two thousand and eleven the International Space Exploration nation group was formed with the same fourteen space agencies and that group is working very hard to come together coordinate, collaborate, share stories, share ideas, to try to help the individual nation states to come out with a good result. Unfortunately, the burden is on the companies and the innovators today to really bring their ideas to their individual nations and petition them for certification, approvals what have you to really have a sense of security and guarantee that what they’re doing will not run afoul of any laws.
NASA in the US is probably the front runner in creating creative public private partnerships that enable NASA and private individuals private corporations to work together to solve issues of access to space and mining and space and other activities in space and so I want to leave you with a challenge it is on us, it is on me this generation to really think through. How our future with space our relationship with the celestial bodies will look like and we do that by bringing certainty to our laws, with our laws we can choose to create laws that serve as barriers to innovation.
So what do we want?
Laws that will preserve the moon as it is today a barren moon, with Luna dust settling on the footprints of men’s one time achievement in space or we can come together as a collective group of global community, a community of innovators lawyers, thinkers doers scientists, even people who are kids who are interested in space.
We come together as a community and tried to architect policies and laws that not only enable innovation, enabled these entrepreneurs to pursue their dreams and realize their dreams in a frontier beyond space, beyond Earth and do so without sacrificing the principle of peacefulness that was articulated by the UN, The Outer Space Treaties and has resonated with us since the Cold War.
And so which will you choose, we choose the barren moon or a future that could look like a sustainable prosperous and peaceful civilization for our children and generations to come. Thank you.
Watch the full video of Justine’s TED talk here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YT4oAlo2kSA