Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Space Law (8 of 9)

Space law is simply, the laws in space, as created by the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS), but since space is a communally-owned territory, like Antarctica, they cannot be enforced readily. The current laws are worded vaguely and rather loosely, making them difficult, if possible, to enforce. The UN has no enforcement powers, so for its proposed laws to be passed, each country has to adopt it on its own, and since no country would agree to a resolution that would limit its decisions, the more loosely-worded a proposed law is, the more countries that would adopt it. But this is not to say that these laws are followed, even when they are passed. For example, in 1979, the United States’ Skylab crashed in Western Australia, scattering debris over hundreds of miles. There was in effect a liability law that the US and Australia had adopted that which allowed a suing for damages if harmed by a falling spacecraft to the country that launched the spacecraft. Australia could have sued the US, but only the Esperance Shire of Australia fined Government of the United States of America for the littering of Skylab, the old space station. But the US never paid. (Taggart, 2001)
ut this lack of care about the repercussions of space debris is not just in the past, but also fully in the present. In 2002, George W Bush withdrew the US from the1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with the Soviet Union, which prohibited placing weapons in space, to develop the “Brilliant Pebbles” proposed missile defense program, which consists of space-based lasers and interceptor missiles. (Primack, 2002) This step of the United States government only leads the US and the world much closer to the weaponization of space, the deterioration of the currently very lackluster space laws and agreements, not to mention putting at risk the now common use of orbital space satellites in modern-day life.

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