The Outer Space Treaty – January 27, 1967

The Outer Space Treaty, formally the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, is a multilateral treaty that forms the basis of international space law. Negotiated and drafted under the auspices of the United Nations, it was opened for signature in the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union on 27 January 1967, entering into force on 10 October 1967. As of August 2023, 114 countries are parties to the treaty—including all major spacefaring nations—and another 22 are signatories. The Outer Space Treaty was spurred by the development of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) in the 1950s, which could reach targets through outer space. The Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik, the first artificial satellite, in October 1957, followed by a subsequent arms race with the United States, hastened proposals to prohibit the use of outer space for military purposes. On 17 October 1963, the U.N. General Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution prohibiting the introduction of weapons of mass destruction in outer space. Various proposals for an arms control treaty governing outer space were debated during a General Assembly session in December 1966, culminating in the drafting and adoption of the Outer Space Treaty the following January. Key provisions of the Outer Space Treaty include prohibiting nuclear weapons in space; limiting the use of the Moon and all other celestial bodies to peaceful purposes; establishing that space shall be freely explored and used by all nations; and precluding any country from claiming sovereignty over outer space or any celestial body. Although it forbids establishing military bases, testing weapons and conducting military maneuvers on celestial bodies, the treaty does not expressly ban all military activities in space, nor the establishment of military space forces or the placement of conventional weapons in space. From 1968 to 1984, the OST gave birth to four additional agreements: rules for activities on the Moon; liability for damages caused by spacecraft; the safe return of fallen astronauts; and the registration of space vehicles.
LIFE Magazine August 5, 1966

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