In 1959, the General Assembly of the UN established the COPUOS, the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, as a permanent body. It works towards international cooperation in the exploration and use of space, by providing information and maintaining contacts with organisations.
The COPUOS works alongside two subcommittees, the Scientific and Technological Subcommittee and the Legal Subcommittee, which focus on these issues regarding the development of space technology. During the Cold War, there were worldwide concerns that space may become another battlefield for the rivalries between global powers, as the U.S.S.R. and the U.S.A. were the leading nations in space exploration, hence the infamous rivalry called the “Space Race”. In 1957, a week after the launching of the first artificial satellite, an American representative stated that the US wanted to ensure that space would be demilitarised and would be used for exclusively research-based purposes. Many nations have since joined in space-related missions and activities and the International Space Station (ISS) was first launched in 1998 and has since been used by cosmonauts and astronauts of various nations.
As of now, space exploration has become more common in comparison to the twentieth century, where it was a novel endeavour. We have completed more than a hundred space-related missions and 42 countries have visited space. The goal of humanity is to further our own expansion, technology, industries, and help create a peaceful connection with other nations. Although space is being used for peaceful and research-based purposes so far, there are concerns amongst the global community that these peaceful times will come to an end soon. Things may change with the introduction of new weapons or the international crowding of space. Many nations claim that they only use space for exploratory purposes and will not use it as a war-fighting domain, however it is unclear whether this is true for the future. Some of these concerns are directly related to the introduction of military forces in space and satellites that relate to military and security operations.
Although these concerns remain, the COPUOS has been working towards the goal of protecting space and has created several resolutions and treaties to prevent the destruction of space and peace. The first international agreement that states the legal issues regarding outer space was the “Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies”. This treaty declares the banning of weapons of mass destruction and details the peaceful uses of outer space, further prohibiting military activities on celestial bodies. Other agreements include the “Rescue Agreement”, which concerns itself with the elaboration regarding the liability for damage caused by the launching of objects into outer space and to the assistance to the return of astronauts and space vehicles, and the “Moon Agreement”, which reaffirms that the moon and other celestial bodies should only be used for peaceful purposes, that their environment remains undisturbed, and that the United Nations must be informed of the location and purpose of any station established on those bodies. Henceforth, it is clear that global organisations are advocating for the peaceful use of outer space, yet it is unclear whether nations stand for such initiative.
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