Thursday, June 1, 2023

Moon Treaty

Moon Treaty

The United Nations has become a focal point for international cooperation in outer space due to having the power to create international law. On Outer space, the United Nations Treaties and Principles are considered as the Texts of treaties and the United Nations General Assembly has adopted the principles which govern State activities in exploration and use of outer space. The law's extension has been evolutionary, which starts with queries related to legal aspects. Then, it keeps going to the principle formulation of a legal nature and incorporates those principles in general multilateral treaties. The General Assembly adopted the Declaration of legal principles in 1963. This text indicates the genesis of the so-called "Space Law, or Moon Treaty"

The UN remains the witness to the development of five multilateral treaties, and the moon treaty is one of them. It offers many guidelines & provisions outlined in 21 articles. According to the agreement, the Moon, with its natural resources, belongs to mankind's common heritage. It states that people should use the Moon for peaceful purposes & the benefit of the whole international community. Eighteen states are parties to the Moon Treaty, seven of which have ratified the same, whereas the rest acceded. There are four states which have signed but not ratified yet.

What is the Moon Treaty?

Moon Treaty is an agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies. It is actually a multilateral treaty that can turn the jurisdiction of all celestial bodies, even the orbits around such bodies, over to the participant nations. In this way, each activity will conform to international law, including the United Nations Charter.

It was signed in New York, USA, on December 18, 1979. Later, it became effective on July 11, 1984. Languages used are English, French, Russian, Spanish, Arabic, and Chinese. Any state which engages in self-launched human spaceflight has not ratified this (e.g. the United States, Russia, or the predecessor of it, the Soviet Union, or the People's Republic of China) . Eighteen states are the parties to the Treaty as of January 2022.


Once the 1967 Outer Space Treaty was signed, it was followed by the United Nations convened UNISPACE, the United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, after a year. It belonged to the first UN-sponsored conferences which wanted to generate an international law framework and offer guidance letting humans learn how to use outer space resources.

The Moon Treaty was made after ten more years of negotiations in 1979 as a law framework to create a regime of detailed processes. According to Article 11.5, an international regime has to govern the exploitation of nature, establishing the accurate processes. Therefore, several UN-sponsored conferences have occurred to define laws or the regime. But there was no consensus. The continuing disagreement depends especially on the "Common Heritage of Mankind" with the rights of each nation to the Moon's natural resources.

Moon Treaty Ratification:

In 1979, it was confirmed. Once the need for five ratifying states was satisfied, this Treaty entered into force after five years for the ratifying parties. As mentioned above, eighteen states are parties to the Treaty as of January 2019. Seven states ratified the agreement, whereas the remaining ones acceded. Four extra states have signed but not ratified yet. The L5 Society and others opposed the signing of the Treaty by the US.

National considerations:

The Subcommittee on Science, Technology, and Space held hearings on the Moon Treaty In the United States on July 29 and 31, 1980. It belonged to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

S. Neil Hosenball was a great supporter of this Treaty. He tried to compare it to mining rights within the US. But he couldn't convince the committee by saying that the US must ratify the agreement. His opposition was Leigh Ratiner, the leader of the L-5 Society. According to Ratiner, the Treaty was opposed to free enterprise & private property rights. So, Leigh gave a potential solution to this Treaty by proposing legal claims to the Moon, such as a system to register such claims, which need to be there.

S. Neil Hosenball is the NASA General Counsel and chief US negotiator for the Moon Treaty. COPUOS held a high-level meeting after eight years of negotiations. This meeting took place to create a consensus on a framework of laws so that outer space can be sustainably developed. But Hosenball decided that the international regime's rules should be delayed until the establishment of the exploitation's feasibility. Therefore, the meeting also failed.

The "national" Treaty allows commercial mining. But experts are having an argument about the new national laws. They ask that the laws are inconsistent with the Moon Treaty and customary international law.

Implementation agreement:

The main topic of discussion around the laws which govern the Moon is dominated by the controversy on the claims and on mining rights for profit. According to the experts, the agreement must allow commercial mining because it allows extraction after the international regulatory regime. So, it can be said that the Treaty is not complete due to the lack of an "implementation agreement" that answers unresolved problems.

Moon Treaty Objective:

Since the 1967 Outer Space Treaty was signed, technologies have evolved, and it needs a redefinition of the citizens' & governments' rights in use and development of outer space. The initially stated objective of the agreement is to offer the essential legal principles to govern the behavior of states, international organizations, individuals exploring celestial bodies other than Earth, and the administration of the resources.

It proposed that state parties can create an "international regime" which sets up the appropriate procedures (Article 11.5).

Moon Treaty Provisions:

The Moon agreement suggests setting up an "international regime" or "framework of laws" which are applicable to the Moon and other celestial bodies within the Solar System, even the orbits around or other trajectories to or around them.

It lays many provisions, which are outlined in 21 articles. This Treaty declared in Article 1 that humans should use Moon for the advantages to all states and peoples of the international community. Moon Treaty lays many provisions. We have given here a few of these below:

  • Article 3.4 bans any type of military use of weapon testing, nuclear weapons in orbit, or military bases. Military personnel's use in scientific research won't be prohibited. 
  • Article 11.5 gives a framework of laws to set up an international cooperation regime for governing the exploitation of Moon's natural resources. 
  • Article 11.7 says all parties' safe use of natural lunar resources in the benefits derived from the resources. 
  • Article 11 says that the placement of equipment or personnel on or below the surface will be unable to create a right of ownership.
  • Article 6 says that the freedom of scientific research & exploration must be present. 
  • Article 6.2 says that samples received during research should be made available to all nations for research. 
  • According to Article 7.3, if any area draws special attention or interest in scientific research, it will be designated as an international scientific preserve. 
  • Article 5.3 says that it will say the United Nations and the public of any phenomena which could become a big risk for human life or health. 
  • Article 14 says state parties need to ensure that non-governmental entities under their jurisdiction will involve in activities on the Moon only under the authority. 
  • Article 5 says each party must inform the United Nations & the public regarding the activities concerned with the exploration and use of the Moon.


The Moon Treaty 1979 has both some benefits and some drawbacks. Considering them both, making a few major changes before binding this on parties & non-parties with the ratification of major space-faring powers is necessary. In this way, the UN needs to review its current provisions & incorporate the essential changes along with giving an improved clarification of the existing clauses. Once exploitation of the additional territorial resources becomes feasible economically & technically, the agreement's test will be possible as a treaty and a customary law.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q. Has India signed the Moon Treaty?

The answer to this question is in the Moon agreement of 1979, which was brought in the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA). Yes, India signed the agreement governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies. However, it never ratified this.

Q. What countries signed the Moon Agreement?

The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs says that France, Guatemala, India, and Romania have signed the Treaty.

Q. What is the Moon Treaty in India?

The Legal Subcommittee considered as well as elaborated the agreement and elaborated from 1972 to 1979. Then, the General Assembly adopted this in 1979 in resolution 34/68.