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peaceful uses of outer space which could appropriately be undertaken under United Nations auspices, including, inter alia :

(i) Assistance for the continuation on a permanent basis of the research on outer space carried on within the framework of the International Geophysical Year;

(ii) Organization of the mutual exchange and dissemination of information on outer space research;

(iii) Encouragement of national research programmes for the study of outer space, and the rendering of all possible assistance and help toward

their realization; (b) To study the nature of legal problems which may arise from the exploration of outer space;

2. Requests the Committee to submit reports on its activities to the subsequent sessions of the General Assembly.

856th plenary meeting,

12 December 1959,

B The General Assembly,

Noting with satisfaction the successes of great significance to mankind that have been attained in the exploration of outer space in the form of the recent launching of artificial earth satellites and space rockets,

Attaching great importance to a broad development of international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space in the interests of the development of science and the improvement of the well-being of peoples,

1. Decides to convene in 1960 or 1961, under the auspices of the United Nations, as an international scientific conference of interested Members of the United Nations and members of the specialized agencies for the exchange of experience in the peaceful uses of outer space;

2. Requests the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, established in resolution A above, in consultation with the Secretary-General and in co-operation with the appropriate specialized agencies, to work out proposals with regard to the convening of such a conference;

3. Requests the Secretary-General, in accordance with the conclusions of the Committee, to make the necessary organizational arrangements for holding the conference.

856th plenary meeting,

12 December 1959.



Two years ago the General Assembly made a definite beginning in conscious international efforts to shape and develop law for outer space. The Assembly's Resolution 1721 is a United Nations landmark in the history of outer space law. In that resolution the General Assembly commended to states for their guidance, legal principles on the freedom of outer space and celestial bodies and on the applicability of international law, including the United Nations Charter, to activities in outer space.

In the same resolution the General Assembly asked this Committee to study legal questions arising in the exploration of space. In the ensuing 2 years, this Committee and our Legal Subcommittee have held extended and thorough discussions in pursuance of the Assembly's mandate.

From an early stage in those discussions, it was recognized that any attempt at a comprehensive codification of legal rules for outer space would not at this stage be appropriate. The world's experience in exploring outer space has been entirely too brief to make any such codification possible yet. Instead, attention was focused on proposals for a study of specific topics, such as liability for space vehicle accidents, and rescue and return of astronauts and space vehicles.

At the same time there were proposals for setting down a statement of broad general principles, on which a consensus might be obtained, designed to govern the activities of states in outer space.

We are now at the point of recording progress in the field of outer space law. We have before us a draft declaration of legal principles. This declara

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tion is the outcome of a long process of international debate and intergovernmental consultation. During previous meetings, drafts of general principles were presented by several delegations. These drafts were extensively debated. Numerous positions were set forth, clarified, and modified. Areas of agree ment were identified, and as time went on differences of view on other matters were narrowed.

This fall, in pursuance of recommendations included both in the report of the Legal Subcommittee and in the report of this Committee made in September, further consultations were held among delegations in order to produce a text which could be generally agreed and supported. These efforts were, we believe, crowned with success, and the agreed paper which emerged is now before us in the form of a proposed “Declaration of Legal Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space." The U.S. delegation would like to offer a few comments on the proposal.

First, it will be seen that the opening operative paragraphs of the declaration-paragraphs 1 through 4are drawn from the General Assembly's Resolution 1721 of 2 years ago. They state broad principles which by now have become familiar in the international community. The first is that the exploration and use of outer space shall be carried on for the benefit and in the interests of all mankind. The second principle states the freedom of outer space and celestial bodies for exploration and use by all States, on the basis of equality and in accordance with international law. The third principle asserts the proposition that outer space and celestial bodies are not subject to national appropriation in any form or by any means. The fourth principle proclaims that the activities of states in outer space shall be carried on in accordance with international law including the Charter of the United Nations.

Paragraph 5 of the declaration asserts the principle that states are internationally responsible for all national activities in outer space, whether these are carried on by agencies of government or by nongovernmental entities. In the case of private enterprise in outer space, government authorization and continuing governmental supervision are required. This part of the declaration also recognizes that states may sometimes conduct activities in outer space through an international organization. When they do so, both the participating states and the international organization itself bear responsibility for the activities undertaken. The principle of state responsibility applies also where outer space activities are carried on by two or more states cooperatively even if they do not act through a formally established international organization.

The next part of the declaration-paragraph 6-deals with the use of international consultation to guard against any outer space activities or experiments that would cause potentially harmful interference with the activities of other states in the peaceful exploration and use of outer space. The provisions of paragraph 6 are twofold: First, if a State has reason to believe that one of its own outer space activities or experiments would cause potentially harmful interference with the activities of other states, the first state shall undertake appropriate international consultations before proceeding with the activity or experiment. Second, if a state has reason to believe that an activity or experiment planned by another state would cause potentially harmful interference, the first state may request consultation. Paragraph 6 is a statement of principle; it does not specify the manner in which consultations are to be held. As the United States has indicated in the past, we regard the consultative group of COSPAR as an appropriate forum for consultation. But in a statement of general principles it would be inappropriate to specify one particular mode exclusively and for all time.

Paragraph 7 of the declaration deals with the status of objects launched into outer space. First the paragraph provides that jurisdiction and control over such objects, and any personnel thereon, are retained by the state of registry while an object is in outer space. This provision parallels some precedents that are familiar in the fields of maritime and aviation law. Paragraph 7 next provides that ownership of objects launched into outer space is not affected by their transit through space or by return to the earth. The paragraph concludes with a statement that space objects, or component parts of such objects, which are found outside the state of registry shall be returned to that state, upon the furnishing of identifying data prior to return if such data are requested.

I should emphasize here that paragraph 7, like the other parts of the draft, is a broad statement of general principle. It does not seek to cover every

conceivable situation, and it does not contain details for precise application. Such matters will need to be given further study, and elaboration will be required in subsequent instruments.

Paragraph 8 states the principle of international liability for damage done in a space vehicle accident. The principle is broadly framed. It covers per. sonal injury, loss of life, and property damage. It covers accidents occurring on the earth, in airspace, or in outer space.

The declaration recognizes the liability of international organizations, as well as of the states participating in them, for damage caused by space activities in which international organizations engage. This is made clear by the last sentence of paragraph 5, which sets forth the following broad principles, covering liability along with other matters: “When activities are carried on in outer space by an international organization, responsibility for compliance with the principles set forth in this declaration shall be borne by the interna: tional organization and by the states participating in it.” It is thus clear that both the international organization itself, and the members participating in it, may be called upon to bear liability.

Details of the application of paragraph 8 and the last sentence of paragraph 5, relating to liability, will need to be spelled out in an appropriate international agreement.

The concluding paragraph in the declaration sets forth the humanitarian principle of assistance to astronauts in the event of accident, distress, or emergency landing—whether on the territory of a foreign state or on the high

Astronauts who make such landings are to be safely and promptly returned to the state of registry of their space vehicle.

In our view, by taking favorable action on this draft declaration we will not be completing, but only beginning our work in the development of law for outer space. The declaration of legal principles is not the last word; it is one of the first. In the future, the United Nations may wish to formulate additional principles, as experience accumulates. We believe also that work should be undertaken in the immediate future to enlarge upon two of the indi. vidual principles so that they may be given practical application and effect in the form of detailed international agreements. We think there is wide agreement that the Outer Space Committee should next take up as a matter of first priority in the legal area the task of preparing international agreements on the subjects of (1) liability for space vehicle accidents, and (2) assistance to and return of astronauts and space vehicles.

We believe, moreover, that we should arrange our work program when we next meet in accordance with this priority.




Mr. Chairman, in a world kept taut by constant danger, in an organization often kept busy by dispute, it is heartening at any time to be able to speak of progress—any progress—toward freedom, or peace, or law, or international cooperation in any field of human endeavor.

I take great satisfaction, therefore, in coming before you today to comment upon our progress toward freedom, peace, law, and cooperation in the field of outer space.

Commonsense and harsh experience combine to teach us not to predict tomorrow by extrapolating from today-especially if today is one of those days on which some progress has been made toward a safer and saner world.

Instead we have seen enough of disappointment to half suspect that today's zig automatically will be offset by tomorrow's zag. But I cannot suppress altogether the tempting notion that perhaps the habit of international cooperation may catch on first in remote outer space and then fall, contagiously, back to earth.

In any event, we can draw some comfort from the historical analogy between this great age of discovery, symbolized by the pioneer astronauts Gagarin and Glenn, and that earlier great age of discovery, symbolized by Erikson and Columbus.

In those 'long gone days, the rulers of Europe failed to match the 'geographic vision of Columbus with a corresponding vision of law and statecraft. Within 2 short years after the New World had been discovered, the two great nautical powers agreed to divide the spoils. On June 7, 1494, ambassadors from Spain and Portugal met in the small town of Tordesillas in Spain and signed an agreement carving up the New World between them. What followed is well known: nationalist competition and imperialist wars.

So, for centuries, a voyage of exploration and discovery was a voyage of conquest and expansion.

This is only year 7 of the age of space and we have only one foot over the threshold of this new age of discovery. Yet already the members of this organization—not by secret agreement reached behind closed doors but by public debate on a floodlit stage have agreed that the two leading space powers of today's world will never carve up the moon between them; nor will they or any nation make any sovereign claim in outer space or on any celestial body. Discovery is no longer the prelude to conquest.

Mr. Chairman, we often warn—and with good reason—that the pace of scientific invention may so outstrip social invention that the world's affairs will race out of control and leave us in chaos behind. But it may be worth noting that it took man tens of thousands of years to figure out how to escape his earthy environment; and in the half dozen years following there has been enough social invention to sustain the hope that outer space will not be chaotic.

That hope is based on the progress that has been made so far toward freedom, peace, law, and cooperation in outer space which, if pursued, could make this the first age of exploration not in the name of national glory but in the name of man himself. I therefore propose, Mr. Chairman, to review briefly this march of social invention which suggests that we may not, after all, be lagging disastrously behind the pace of technological advance, at least in outer space.


The essential freedoms of outer space are set forth in General Assembly Resolution 1721 approved nearly 2 years ago. That resolution asserts that outer space and celestial bodies are free from national appropriation. It asserts that all nations are free to explore and to use outer space. This is the doctrine of freedom in outer space unanimously proclaimed by the members of this Assembly.

In addition to the freedoms embodied in General Assembly Resolution 1721, two important steps have recently been taken to limit the arms race in outer space.

One was the treaty signed by over a hundred nations, prohibiting the testing of nuclear weapons in outer space, in the atmosphere, and underwater, is a significant step toward a regime of peace in outer space.

The other was the step taken by this Assembly on October 17 when the members by acclamation welcomed the expressions by the United States and the Soviet Union of their intention not to station in outer space any objects carrying nuclear weapons or other kinds of weapons of mass destruction and solemnly called upon all states to refrain from stationing such weapons in outer space.

Observance of this resolution and of the partial test ban by all nations will do more than limit the arms race in outer space. It should help to create the confidence needed here on earth for greater progress in disarmament and cooperation in all areas.


The structure for this cooperation, and for the activities of all nations in space, must be an international legal order. This need becomes more imperative as the number of nations active in space increases and as the range of their activities grows.

This growth of custom and usage must be present to provide the basis of sound law. Resolution 1721 made a beginning when it declared that freedom to explore and use outer space means freedom to do so “in conformity with international law.” And more specifically "international law, including the Charter of the United Nations, applies to outer space and celestial bodies."

This general proposition was not enough. In the same resolution the General Assembly asked the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space to study legal problems arising out of the exploration of space. So the Committee established a Legal Subcommittee to begin to put flesh on the bones of outer space law.

From an early stage, members of the Committee realized that any attempts at a comprehensive codification of legal rules for outer space would be premáture. The world's experience in the exploration of outer space has been entirely too brief. In conformity with this experience, the Committee finally agreed to try simultaneously to elaborate basic legal principles and to draw up rules for handling two specific legal problems which already pressed for solution : liability for outer space vehicle accidents, and assistance to, and return of, astronauts and their vehicles which might come down on the territory of another state.

After almost 2 years, a part of this work has now borne fruit. We have before us a draft declaration of legal principles which the Outer Space Com. mittee has unanimously decided to submit to the General Assembly. It is the outcome of a long process of international debate and international consultation, of numerous drafts, of clarifications, compromises, and modifications. This fall, at the request of the Outer Space Committee, these consultations were intensified in order to produce a text which could be generally agreed and supported.

I should like to say a few words about the character and status which the United States considers the principles contained in this declaration will have once the draft resolution has been adopted by the General Assembly, as we hope, without any dissent. In the view of the United States, the operative paragraphs of the resolution contained legal principles which the General Assembly, in adopting the resolution, would declare should guide states in the exploration and use of outer space. We believe these legal principles reflect international law as it is accepted by the members of the United Nations. The United States, for its part, intends to respect these principles. We hope that the conduct which the resolution commends to nations in the exploration of outer space will become the practice of all nations.

In adopting the resolution now before us the General Assembly will be only beginning its work on the development of law for outer space. The declara, tion is not the last word; it is one of the first. In the future, as experience accumulates, the United Nations may want to formulate additional principles.

In addition-and we believe there is wide agreement on this—the Outer Space Committee should now give first priority to the task of preparing international agreements on the subjects of (1) liability for space vehicle accidents, and (2) assistance to and return of astronauts and space vehicles. We believe that the General Assembly should ask the Outer Space Committee to arrange its work program accordingly.

Moreover, the General Assembly will want to provide for a continuing study of the whole field of outer space law as the activities of states develop in this new environment. We believe the Outer Space Committee and its Legal Subcommittee should continue to survey the whole field of outer space exploration from the legal point of view, so that the United Nations may make an informed and effective contribution in building an international legal order for outer space.


Freedom, peace, and law—these are the goals of the Assembly in space. But the Assembly and the United Nations have yet a fourth significant goalinternational cooperation.

Such cooperation begins with direct cooperation among nations. It has been the consistent policy of my Government, from the beginning of the age of space, to extend our hand in cooperation, to share knowledge with other nations, and to obtain, in return, the benefits of common enterprise, much needed help and the good will of involvement in common tasks.

As President Johnson stated as early as January 7, 1958, when he was a Senator of the United States : “The goals now within reach of the human race are too great to be divided as spoils, too great for the world to waste its effort in a blind race between competitive nations."

Cooperative arrangements—both bilateral and multilateral—with other nations now cover virtually the entire range of U.S. research and application for peaceful development of outer space.

Our Weather Bureau and space agency have participated in the coordinated acquisition of satellite and ground-based weather data with 40 other national weather seryices.

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