UN Cyberschoolbus - HomeUN Cyberschoolbus - Home
Core Treaties  
Treaties you might not expect  

  Maybe the United Federation of Planets from "Star Trek" isn't as far off as we think—after all, there are several UN agreements covering activities in space, on the moon, and on "other celestial bodies."

  Granted, nobody from celestial bodies other than the Earth has signed these treaties, but should we rule out the possibility?

  In the meantime, the agreement known as the "Moon Treaty" (1979) focuses on the necessity for maintaining a strictly peaceful use of the moon, other planets in the solar system and their resources.

  Activities or devices in any way related to warmaking or weaponry are strictly forbidden, and the natural resources of the moon and other planets may only be used for peaceful purposes.

  Other conventions address activities slightly closer to home.
The Convention on registration Of Objects Launched Into Outer Space (1974) functions as a kind of galactic Department of Motor Vehicles: you may not need collision insurance to launch a satellite into orbit, but you do need to be registered- with hundreds of man-made objects orbiting the earth at any given time, the last thing you want is one that doesn't obey the traffic laws.

  To guard against just such problems, there is the Convention on International Liability For Damage Caused By Space Objects (1972), which actually lays out international rules and procedures about countries' liability for damage caused by objects they launched into space.

  The most interesting of all the outer space treaties may be the Agreement on The Rescue Of Astronauts, The Return Of Astronauts and The Return Of Objects Launched Into Outer Space.

  While the name of the treaty may sound in part like it's referring to an intergalactic lost and found ("If you have found this space capsule, please drop it in the nearest mailbox..."), what it really does is lay out guidelines for countries to help astronauts who don't land where they're expected to.

  Unfortunately, it doesn't have provisions for Apollo 13-type emergencies, since manned spaceflight isn't as flexible as most ambulance services.

  But that could change before you know it—your kids will be heading to Mars for spring break on the Red Planet Ferry Line, knowing full well that if a stray asteroid knocks out the steering, the UFP-AAA will be there to help out.

UN Cyberschoolbus - Home comments and suggestions: cyberschoolbus@un.org Copyright © 1996- United Nations