Is Earth-moon space the US military's new high ground?

Oct 21, 2019
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Quote from the article "U.S. military space policy officials have increasingly flagged a new role in guarding American assets and interests in Earth-moon space. This evolving doctrine extends to the moon's surface..."

Of course any military activities on the surface of the Moon are expressly forbidden under the UN Outer Space Treaty (to which the US was one of the original signatories). Quote from Article IV of the Treaty "The moon and other celestial bodies shall be used by all States Parties to the Treaty exclusively for peaceful purposes. The establishment of military bases, installations and fortifications, the testing of any type of weapons and the conduct of military manoeuvres on celestial bodies shall be forbidden." https://www.unoosa.org/oosa/en/ourwork/spacelaw/treaties/outerspacetreaty.html
 
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Sep 17, 2020
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Quite right - glad somebody brought up the OST as it seems to have been largely forgotten in the blind rush to repeat all the same mistakes that we've already made on Earth.

As an example of this attitude from the article:

"the U.S. military should have a cislunar presence in order to facilitate U.S. companies and US citizens winning out in the lunar gold rush, and preventing others from shoving us aside and jumping our claims," Burbach said.

"...our claims..." - No one has the right to "claim" anything in space, not a country, nor a company, nor an individual. Space should be the preserve of all mankind as stated in the OST, and not subject to same kind of greed motivate free-for-all that has caused so much conflict and short term thinking here on Earth.

The US can't very well turn around to China and criticise that country's actions in the South China Sea on the basis that those islands don't belong to China under international law, and then flout international law (namely the OST) to grab finite mineral resources from the Moon or elsewhere the moment it senses a profit to be had. And it certainly has no right to "police" outer space, any more than any other country does. The moment this threshold is crossed it will just open up a scramble for space without any thought for future sustainability or equity among nations. If space truly is the "preserve of all mankind" then any resources mined by anyone should be distributed equally among all, and not simply hoarded for profit.
 
Feb 14, 2020
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For right reasons we have violated Outer Space Treaty during Apollo 13 reentry where the Lunar Module carrying the Radioisotope Thermal Generator RTG with Plutonium for ALSEP expts on Lunar Surface attached to LM leg also re-entered the Earth atmosphere with command Module and we tracked it using NORAD and Baker Nunn Cameras global network and it fortunately landed safely in Marian Trench off Japan. I was one of investigators of the team that tracked the space craft and any releases during lunar missions using 60+ telescopes.

The Engineering was perfectly planned, just in case RTG had to reenter, the body was designed as independent reentry heat shielded body so frangrament would not easily spread.

Still we were in violation but US must have informed the UN on this incident.

I received Apollo Achievement Award from NASA and later when I was in India I represented India to the Outer Space Committe - Technical sub-committe in 1974 and 1977.

Yes we (US) are bound by OST but many aggressive nations are emerging and they do not adhere to open and correct information and such an example being this pandemic source(?).

Therefore, as much as we would like such countries to not bully us, we want the capability to protect our and allied assets in space and should not violate OST as long as no one else tries.

China's claim as mentioned by Gareth is more serious regarding S China Sea and is counter to all kinds of UN and other treaties and norms and their visciousness is to challange both superpowers as well as other Asian countries by claiming everything as theirs. We hoe we have not forgotten the lessons from World Wars, to not allow such treaty violations on our planet itself.

Perhaps the strength of US Space Force will be to maintain peace in cislunar space by protecting other nations and the US assets to counter such bullying and the Force will adhere to new refined detailed understanding that will be perhaps be newly created by the UN Outer Space Committee.

The OS Committee should start addressing the concerns that my two previous commentators have rightfully posed, namely what are the refined rules for sharing and exploring the lunar resources and we hope we can objectively explore (not exploit like carbon problem) the resources on the moon for Earthlings benefit!

From Apollo Soyuz to the ISS both the superpowers have shown and practiced collaboration for mutual benefits.
hopefully bullying will stop and cooperation will actually start with Openness!
 
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Oct 21, 2019
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For right reasons we have violated Outer Space Treaty during Apollo 13 reentry where the Lunar Module carrying the Radioisotope Thermal Generator RTG with Plutonium for ALSEP expts on Lunar Surface attached to LM leg also re-entered the Earth atmosphere with command Module and we tracked it using NORAD and Baker Nunn Cameras global network and it fortunately landed safely in Marian Trench off Japan. I was one of investigators of the team that tracked the space craft and any releases during lunar missions using 60+ telescopes.

The Engineering was perfectly planned, just in case RTG had to reenter, the body was designed as independent reentry heat shielded body so frangrament would not easily spread.

Still we were in violation but US must have informed the UN on this incident.
I'm puzzled as to why you think the Apollo 13 Lunar Module reentry with the ALSEP RTG was in violation of the Outer Space Treaty? Nuclear weapons in Outer Space are banned by the Treaty, but nuclear powered instruments are not. What Article of the Treaty do you believe was violated?
 
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Release of Plutonium and Radioactivity in space, will have to study the articles, but you are right in saying that we actually did not release as RTG did not break up. If it did then there would perhaps be violation. We were afraid of the legal implications during re-entry of LM.
There have been several missions especially toward outer planets where RTGs as source of power have been since launched and I am assuming that their details have been informed to the UN Outer Space Committee!
 
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Sep 21, 2020
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There are so many points here that are simply wrong.

Quite right - glad somebody brought up the OST as it seems to have been largely forgotten in the blind rush to repeat all the same mistakes that we've already made on Earth.
The principles in the Artemis Accords -- NASA's statement on the US approach to lunar development and resource extraction -- build directly on the OST, offering clarity and doubling down on this historic international treaty. In NASA's own words, the Accords represent "a shared vision for principles, grounded in the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, to create a safe and transparent environment which facilitates exploration, science, and commercial activities for all of humanity to enjoy."

Perhaps you're thinking of the Moon Agreement, which the Accords do explicitly refute, as they are ambiguous, overly restrictive, and de-incentivize space economic development. Of course, the Moon Agreement is widely considered defunct by all major space powers, none of whom are party to it.

No one has the right to "claim" anything in space, not a country, nor a company, nor an individual.
Again, this is simply inaccurate. I recommend reading the OST before using it to back your points. Resources can arguably be claimed by non-state actors under the OST, though discussions to clarify this are underway, and some countries have passed national law that does so.

Article II states that "Outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means." While nations are forbidden to claim territory, the OST says nothing about private actors and resources. This is a grey area commonly compared to the Law of the Sea, in which no nation can own the ocean, but they may own the fish they catch from the ocean; similarly, actors are not prohibited from claiming and owning resources they may mine from the territory, so long as they do not claim ownership over the territory itself.

It is the customary position of international lawmaking bodies that if a treaty does not expressly forbid an activity, then the activity should tacitly be considered legal; otherwise, the treaty would have included it.

Now, sure, the Moon Agreement goes so far as to forbid essentially any actor from ownership of celestial bodies and their resources. But again, it's defunct, nonbinding, toothless, and irrelevant.

Space should be the preserve of all mankind as stated in the OST
Again incorrect. Space itself is not the province or common heritage of all mankind. This is commonly misquoted.

The actual text of Article I reads: "The exploration and use of outer space... shall be the province of all mankind." No nation is forbidden from engaging in space exploration and development, hence the "free access" clause... but certainly no nation is compelled to give away its material profits to all nations. This exploration and use "shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries"; initial lunar economic development by one or several nations, so long as they do not deliberately exclude access to other nations, opens opportunities for less-developed nations to participate, and therefore it can certainly be argued this in the best interest of all countries.

What's more, Article IX protects against interference, which may be construed to protect temporary, finite, localized claims rights (potentially including non-interference zones for operational safety) for the purposes of mineral extraction. In any case, it calls for state parties to the treaty to consult internationally with those potentially affected before acting, and several principles in the Artemis Accords suggest this is the desired US course of action in such an event.

The US can't very well turn around to China and criticise that country's actions in the South China Sea on the basis that those islands don't belong to China under international law, and then flout international law (namely the OST)...
Nations are certainly allowed to criticize the illegal invasion and seizure of other nations' sovereign territory. In the case of Chinese military seizure of the Scarborough Shoal from the Philippines, the UN ruled in 2016 in favor of the Philippines, backed by an international coalition of 40 nations. China ignored the finding and proceeded anyway with more warships. What sort of precedent does this behavior set? What does this communicate to the international community about Chinese regard for national legislation when aggressive resource exploitation is concerned?

So far, the US has not breached the OST in pursuit of space resources, so the point is hypothetical at best. The US is currently one of the leading nations when it comes to formulating/advancing international, bilateral space resources legislation.

...to grab finite mineral resources from the Moon or elsewhere the moment it senses a profit to be had.
There are indeed more- and less-advantageous locations that render certain mine sites more profitable than others. This is an important point of contention, and all parties must work together to reach a sustainable, fair solution.

However, the idea that the Moon's mineral resources are "finite", in any practical sense of the term, is completely out of proportion. Speaking for lunar polar ice, where the potential for conflict is highest and most immediate, there is enough there to sustain operations for several millennia. These reserves, such as they can be proved, are hardly in danger of running out in the early years that first-movers might potentially enjoy unilateral access.

If space truly is the "preserve of all mankind" then any resources mined by anyone should be distributed equally among all, and not simply hoarded for profit.
Again, this is not the text of the OST, which does not advocate for the equal distribution of resources to all nations, regardless of participation. Benefits should certainly be shared, and open access/collaboration encouraged, but equal distribution is a laughable concept that destroys any incentive for any commercially motivated actor, even those with the best intentions, to invest effort into an inherently risky space resources venture.

Finally, let's consider the resources that are really in question. "Hoarding" lunar water does no good for the owner. This isn't a diamond monopoly with a limited, tightly-controlled supply; actors will simply return to launching propellant from Earth at marginally higher cost. The value of water is in its use and sale: using for life support, to enable a greater number of humans to inhabit deep space settlements, and as cryogenic propellants, which bring down launch costs and extend humankind's reach, thus democratizing access to space for developed and less-developed nations alike, leaving all the world's nations in a better position to fulfill the original designs of the OST.
 
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Mar 5, 2020
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Would the forward placement of Nuclear Weapons for the purpose of rapid action against asteroids be a breach of the treaty? Interstellar asteroids can reach Earth from the orbit of Jupiter in about three months. The only defensive posture that would be effective requires that nuclear weapons be placed in forward positions.

That is if the war to break the Starlink blockade didn’t create enough space debris to prevent all space travel.

So, who are the sponsors for this new military player in space?
 

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