"No more Snapchat, that's the end of the world"

The internet is a common place and a valuable source of information. You are reading this article, here and now, via your internet connection. 

Could you imagine a world without the internet? No snapchat, no reading this interesting article about Space Law or finding out when there will be puppies on campus through the Lex Salus Facebook page.

In international law, a treaty is an agreement between two or more sovereign states reached after negotiations. The Outer Space Treaty is a guiding set of principles that determine what nation states can and cannot do to the moon. 

As part of a short segment on War and Law in Space for Behind the News (BTN), Professor Dale Stephens, alongside other academics, explain the threats to humanity’s current and future activities on the moon in what is shaping up to be the 21st century ‘Space Race’.

But first, a quick spot of revision.

The Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (Outer Space Treaty) contains how many articles? 

a) 15 articles
b) 17 articles
c) 19 articles

The correct answer is: b) 17. 

Professor Dale Stephens, Director of the Research Unit on Military Law and Ethics (RUMLAE), notes that 17 provisions are “quite limited” for a rule book used to govern the entirety of outer space. For a comparison, the Law of the Sea Convention (UNCLOS) contains 320 articles. The Law of the Sea Treaty is used by governments to maintain order, productivity, and peaceful relations on the sea for a range of activities such as maritime transport, mining and military operations.

The limited provisions in the Outer Space Treaty presents a challenging question; who actually owns the moon? 

This becomes much more interesting when we take into account the activities that take place around the moon. The many satellites that are currently in outer space are used for sourcing information for maps, the internet and weather reports.

One of the emerging challenges is technological warfare, meaning that nation states could be waging a ‘war against satellites’ over space jurisdictions. This potentially could impact on access to a stable internet connection, accurate weather updates or even GPS signals!

Or as Dale succinctly puts it, “No more Snapchat, that's the end of the world”.

The role of law will be central in alleviating conflict, as we move forward in the exploration and use of space in the coming years!

This is an emerging area of law in which the Adelaide Law School has a strong tradition of expertise in, offering Strategic Space Law as an elective for postgraduate law coursework and International Law as a compulsory elective in the Bachelor of Laws undergraduate program. 

Tagged in Research Unit on Military Law and Ethics, News

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