Quick Check: Does space belong to any country?

AS resources on our planet dwindle, attention turns to a place where there is a seemingly endless supply — outer space.

Amid intensifying competition for minerals to fulfil demands, countries and private actors are racing to find more in outer space.

This endeavour is not so clear cut, however, as apart from the high cost associated, it is dogged with myriad legal questions.

For decades, global superpowers have dominated spacefaring, leading some to believe they claim ownership, or at least have some semblance of authority, over outer space.

Is this actually true?



Legally, no single country owns or has jurisdiction over outer space, parts of it or the celestial bodies within it.

This is guaranteed by the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which is signed by more than 110 countries, including major spacefaring nations.

Overseen by the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs, the treaty establishes that outer space is not subject to appropriation by any nations or claims of sovereignty.

It states that the exploration and use of outer space "shall be carried out for the benefit of all, irrespective of their degree of economic or scientific development".

The treaty does, however, permit countries to set up assets for various purposes such as for telecommunication and surveillance.

Those who launch into and maintain an object in outer space also have the right to exercise jurisdiction and control over that object.

It is, however, unclear if they have ownership over the area in which the object resides – for example a space station on the moon.

Many experts have called for the treaty to be updated to reflect the current political and economic situations.

The treaty, they said, does not explicitly address who owns the resources extracted in outer space.

This may leave room for countries or private companies to claim ownership, which violates the spirit of the treaty.

There are also concerns that some areas may be of scientific interest and must therefore be protected from commercial activities.








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