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Day 42 – Q 5.Can outer space be considered a resource? How? What measures must be taken to ensure that the space doesn’t meet the fate of forests and oceans?

5. Can outer space be considered a resource? How? What measures must be taken to ensure that the space doesn’t meet the fate of forests and oceans? 

क्या अंतरिक्ष को एक संसाधन माना जा सकता है? कैसे? यह सुनिश्चित करने के लिए क्या उपाय किए जाने चाहिए कि अंतरिक्ष की हालत हमारे जंगलों और महासागरों जैसी न हो जाये?

Space, also known as outer space, is the near-vacuum between celestial bodies. It is where everything (all of the planets, stars, galaxies and other objects) is found. On Earth, space begins at the Karman line (100 km above sea level). This is where Earth’s atmosphere is said to stop and outer space begins.


Outer Space as Resource:

Space exploration and development have been stimulated by a complex mixture of motivations, including scientific inquiry, intense competition between national governments and ideologies, and commercial profit. Underlying them has been a vision of the outward movement of humans from Earth, ultimately leading to permanent settlements in space or on other celestial bodies. There are multiple applications of space technologies in various sectors. It will cover agriculture, education, weather forecasting, rural health, telecommunications, urban development, sanitation, resource mapping navigation, remote sensing and any other areas.

Issues Related to Outer space:

  • Space debris: A satellite that is destroyed by a missile disintegrates into small pieces, and adds to the space debris. The free-floating space debris is a potential hazard for operational satellites and colliding with them can leave the satellites dysfunctional.
  • Weaponisation of outer space: Weaponization of outer space emerges as the battleground, sometimes referred to as the “fourth frontier of war”. This includes placing weapons in outer space or on heavenly bodies as well as creating weapons that will transit outer space or simply travel from Earth to attack or destroy targets in space. Examples include the placing of orbital or suborbital satellites to attack enemy satellites.

  • Space traffic: With countries launching more and more satellites, this may lead to traffic in satellite orbits and may lead to collisions in future.

Global Rules related to Space: 

International treaties are governing the use of space that mandate that outer space and celestial bodies like the Moon, must only be exploited for peaceful purposes. Some relevant international treaties that address aspects of the outer space issue are

  • Outer Space Treaty, 1967: The Outer Space Treaty prohibits only weapons of mass destruction in outer space, not ordinary weapons.
  • Limited Test Ban Treaty of 1963: It prohibits nuclear tests and any other nuclear explosions in the atmosphere or outer space
  • Astronauts Rescue Agreement of 1968: It requires the safe return of astronauts and objects launched into space to their country of origin;
  • Liability Convention of 1972: It establishes procedures for determining the liability of a state that damages or destroys space objects of another state; 
  • Registration Convention of 1976: It requires the registration of objects launched into space
  • Moon Agreement of 1984: It took the first steps to establish a regime for exploiting the natural resources of space.

Way Forward:

  • The Outer Space Treaty should ban all military activities within space or the weaponization of space.
  • Space, however, must be used only for peaceful purposes and any weaponisation of Outer Space should not be tolerated in the larger interest of people.
  • The safety and security of space-based assets should be ensured through international cooperation.
  • Need for formulating a comprehensive treaty for preventing outer space from becoming a domain for testing destructive devices. This will include the formation of a global regulatory regime to address the growing militarization in space. 
  • Bring transparency and build confidence among nations.
  • Mitigating problems such as space debris by using technologies like Harpoon and Net capture.
  • Innovation and R&D for clearing space debris. Launch of more missions like Remove Debris.
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