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EDITORIAL ANALYSIS : Taking a giant leap for a new ethics in outer space


Source: The Hindu

  • Prelims: Current events of national and international importance(Space programmes, International Geophysical Year (IGY), south pole, Chandrayaan-3, outer space Treaty Indian Space Policy 2023 etc
  • Mains GS Paper II: Science and technology, development and application, Development in the field of space and issues related to it etc



  • 1910-12, Robert Scott, British naval officer, was preparing a daring expedition to the South Pole.
    • Same time, a Norwegian explorer, Roald Amundsen, was planning a bold ice-drift to the North Pole.
  • ISRO made it to the elite space club much before the Chandrayaan-3 mission’s ‘Vikram’ lander touched down on the lunar south pole on August 23.




Treaties for Outer Space:

  • The Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space: Established in 1959 by the UN to review and enable international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space.
  • In 1963, countries agreed to prohibit testing nuclear weapons in outer space.
  • In 1967, the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, was agreed upon.
    • It prohibits only weapons of mass destruction in outer space, not ordinary weapons.
  • In 2022, the UN members agreed upon a series of guidelines, frameworks and recommendations on issues such as
    • Mitigation of space debris,
    • Nuclear power source safety,
    • The long-term sustainability of outer space activities and
    • Transparency and confidence-building measures in outer space activities.


Claim on Antarctica by different countries:

  • In 1939, Norway laid claim to a vast area of Antarctica which it called Dronning Maud Land, or Queen Maud Land, after its reigning Queen, wife of King Haakon.
    • This area covers about a sixth of the entire continent.
    • Norwegian claims Peter I Island(450km) off the western side of the Antarctic peninsula.
  • Britain was the second South Pole ‘arrivee’ and claimant
  • Other countries: Australia, Argentina, Chile, France and New Zealand.


Regulation and Antarctica’s well-being

  • International Geophysical Year (IGY) in 1958 many players became active in Antarctica
  • The United States(1959) convened an Antarctic Conference of the 12 countries active in Antarctica during the IGY, to negotiate a treaty.
  • Argentina proposed that atomic explosions be banned in Antarctica.
    • S. reply: only those tests that were carried out without prior notice and consultation should be banned.
    • The USSR and Chile supported the Argentine proposal.
  • Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Chile, France, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States — 12 countries — had established over 55 Antarctic research stations for the IGY
  • They had to make the Treaty accord full acceptance to two basics:
    • Freedom of scientific research in Antarctica
    • Peaceful use of the continent.
  • An indirect consensus emerged for demilitarization: The treaty prohibited nuclear testing, military operations, economic exploitation, and further territorial claims in Antarctica.
  • Present status: 54 parties to the Treaty, with 29 having consultative status
    • India with its own station on Queen Maud’s Land have ‘demonstrated their interest in Antarctica by carrying out substantial scientific activity there’.


Moon Agreement:

  • It was adopted by the General Assembly in 1979 in resolution 34/68
  • It provides that space-probing humanity’s dealings with the moon should be used exclusively for peaceful purposes
  • Its environment should not be disrupted
  • The United Nations should be informed of the location and purpose of any station established on it.
  • Moon and its natural resources are the common heritage of mankind and that ‘an international regime should be established to govern the exploitation of such resources’ when such exploitation is about to become feasible.
  • The Moon Agreement is a self-regulating covenant of restraint.


Way Forward

  • Chandrayaan-3 achievement: It must now be followed by a mature policy on the future of India’s earth-borne plans on the moon.
  • India must, by precept and practice, set the pace for the earth’s agenda on the moon and of the moon’s future as a partner with the earth.
  • As a partner, not as property. As a collaborator in science, not a colony in subjugation.
  • The Moon Agreement must be taken to its next logical stage.
  • The Prime Minister’s statement: “The success of Chandrayaan 3 is not just India’s alone but it belongs to all of humanity” — was wise and responsible.
  • Inaugurate a new ethics for human activity in outer space, including, very pointedly, the earth’s responsibilities towards outer space debris.
  • This new ethic must make the non-militarisation of outer space a non-negotiable covenant.
  • The Outer Space Treaty and Moon Agreement now need aligning not just with the latest advances in space missions but with a moral compass to the stars.



Discuss India’s achievements in the field of Space Science and Technology. How the application of this technology has helped India in its socio-economic development?(UPSC 2016) (200 WORDS, 10 MARKS)