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AN INTERNATIONAL OUTER SPACE AGENCY FOR PEACEFUL PURPOSES A BRIEF
REVIEW OF VARIOUS PROPOSALS AND AN ANALYSIS OF POSSIBILITIES
(By Mary Shepard, analyst, International Organization Foreign Affairs Division,
Legislative Reference Service, the Library of Congress) 1. Introduction
Both the feasibility and the relative advantages and disadvantages of an international outer-space agency devoted to peaceful purposes might well depend on the proposed scope of the operations of such an agency. Generally speaking its functions could embrace (1) the pooling of all outer space resources; (2) supervision, research, and development falling short of complete pooling; (3) collaboration limited to pooling of information and research; (4) the study and formulation of rules to govern use of outer space. 2. Pooling of all outer space resources
An example of the conception of pooling all outer-space resources is the plan advocated by Ernest K. Lindley, of Newsweek magazine, to the effect that the United States should take the lead in making two interlocking proposals: 1, to demilitarize and internationalize outer space through the UN and give to a UN agency the task of exploration of space; 2, to propose to the Soviet Union the merging of Soviet and United States enterprises and to invite all nations and peoples to contribute to cooperative efforts to explore space. He suggests collaboration with other nations even if the Soviet Union will not cooperate."
Somewhat along the same lines, the Commission To Study the Organization of Peace has proposed that the United States adopt as a long-run policy “the international ownership and operation of all or certain types of spacecraft.” 2
The Department of State, according to newspaper reports, has under consideration a plan, among other alternatives, in accordance with which an international agency would supervise all outer space projects.
These conceptions bear an analogy to the Acheson-Lilienthal, later the Baruch, plan for the international control of atomic energy, which became United States policy during the early postwar years. Under the Baruch proposal an international agency would have owned and operated the mines and plants for producing atomic weapons, licensed activities in states involving the use of nuclear materials, and would have had uninhibited power of inspection of national industrial and other relevant establishments to ensure that no illicit operations were taking place.
Proposed programs such as these imply that an international agency should not only embrace all present activities involved in the peaceful exploration of outer space but should also exercise control in the crucial areas of outer space weapons development and use. Clearly this kind of outer space monopoly would involve vital issues of national defense and national sovereignty. The Commission to Study the Organization of Peace has concluded in relation to its own above-mentioned suggestions :
"Only in connection with a thoroughgoing system of international control over armaments, including international inspection and a police force, would this alternative (international ownership) seem to be politically practical. It should not be considered separately from the crucial question of international inspection which is now under discussion." 4
Generally speaking materials and instrumentalities used in the exploration of space, and the knowledge gained from such exploration, can be used for war as well as for peace. Not only can they be used for war, they lie at the very heart of evolving national weapons systems. A like duality of application has haunted and hampered the development of atomic energy for peaceful purposes. The Soviet sputniks were launched into outer space with intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) rockets and the United States EXPLORER was placed in orbit by the JUPITER C, developed by the Army. Even at this early state it is clear that much of the data which these satellites have transmitted could have military significance.
Despite Department of State study, it is doubtful if the United States Government would go so far as to propose an international outer-space development
1 Newsweek magazine, January 20 and 27, and February 8, 1958.
2 Commission To Study, the Organization of Peace. Strengthening the United Nations, New York. Harper & Bros., 1957, p. 219.
3 New York Times, January 19, 1958, p. 1. * Op. cit., p. 218.
monopoly. There is only the remotest possibility that the Soviet Union would consider such a plan, if proposed. 3. Supervision, research, and development falling short of complete pooling
The difficulties of establishing an international monopoly in an area vital to the national defense and to the technological advancement of nations, in a world divided by conflicts of ideology and interest, were made abundantly evident during the negotiations over the Baruch proposal. On the other hand, a number of international organizations testify to the efficacy of an approach which seeks to design an instrument with purposes and functions judged to be within the bounds of practicality.
The examples that come most readily to mind are, on a regional basis, the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Atomic Energy Community. The Coal and Steel Community exercises supervisory control over the activities of its member-nations but it does not engage heavily in operational programs as such. The Atomic Energy Community, on the other hand, goes a long way in the direction of a real pooling of resources. Through it distribution will be made of available surplus uranium resources. Joint enterprises and joint development of research and dissemination of information are listed as being among the functions of the Community. Politically, these agencies are contributing to the soldering of the ancient rifts between France and Germany and to the integration of Europe as a whole.
On an international basis, the most outstanding recent example of a part-way organization of this kind is the International Atomic Energy Agency. In brief, the functions of the Agency are (1) to assist research on, and the practical application of atomic energy for peaceful purposes; (2) to act as an intermediary in supplying materials and services; (3) to foster the exchange of scientific and technical information and to encourage the exchange and training of scientists; (4) and to establish safeguards to insure that its materials, services and facilities are not used for military purposes.
Suggestions have been made that a similar international agency could be established to explore and exploit outer space for peaceful purposes, to the extent that such_joint endeavors were found to be practicable. Senate majority leader, Lyndon Johnson, for example, has called for joint exploration of outer space by the United Nations. Former United States disarmament negotiator, Harold Stassen, has advocated a United Nations Space Development Agency" which would endeavor as a United Nations project to send the first man into space and to send the first inspection photographic satellite around the earth.” 8 Senator Hubert Humphrey, chairman of the Senate's Disarmament Subcommittee, has proposed that the United States "take the lead in marshaling the talents and resources of the world to unlock the mysteries of outer space in joint research and exploration under the auspices of the United Nations.” 1
In pointing out the desirability of such an agency Representative Robert Hale has stated that it would not be necessary to bar all military experimentation in outer space in seeking to divert energy and resources, on an international basis, to peaceful exploitation. He has commented that : 8
"Mr. Eisenhower did not maintain the inflexible position in that (atomic energy) proposal that all nations must agree to stop producing atomic energy for war purposes. Rather, he recommended that at least some of this power potential be devoted to peaceful uses beneficial to mankind * * *"
Last March the Soviet Union proposed the establishment of a United Nations agency for international cooperation in the study of cosmic space as part of a four-point disarmament program. The functions of the agency would be to,
1. Work out an agreed international program for launching intercontinental and space rockets with the aim of studying cosmic space, and supervise the implementation of this program.
2. Continue on a permanent basis the research in cosmic space now being carried on within the framework of the International Geophysical Year.
3. Serve as a world center for the collection, mutual exchange and dissemination of information on space research.
4. Coordinate national research programs for the study of cosmic space and render all-round assistance and help toward their realization. 5 Congressional Record, February 3, 1958, * Washington Post, March 10, 1958, p. A6. * Speech delivered before Institute of Arms Control for World Security, February 19, 1958. 8 Congressional Record, January 23, 1958, p. 685. 9 Washington Post, March 16, 1958, p. 1.
In recent testimony before the Senate Committee on Space and Astronautics Mr. Loftus E. Becker, legal adviser of the Department of State, indicated that the United States favors international machinery for the exploration of outer space for peaceful purposes. He suggested that the principal responsibility of such an agency should be to promote and coordinate outer space activities. Its functions might include, among others, the establishment of international space regulations; the collection and exchange of information; and the coordination and planning of outer space research and exploration. He pointed out that the agency's activities “could be pursued independently of control arrangements over military uses of outer space.” He referred to the International Atomic Energy Agency as a suitable precedent and example for such an agency.10
The objective of international cooperation might be achieved simply by extending the functions of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to cover outer-space activities. If a separate agency were judged to be desirable some conception of its possible activities may be gained by substituting in a listing of the functions of the IAEA, the terms “outer space” for “atomic energy." (See annex attached.)
Other international organizations whose areas of competency could be extended to cover outer-space enterprises engage in various supervisory, regulatory, research, and operational activities. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is empowered to promote "collaboration * * * through science” among nations. The International Civil Aviation Organization is authorized to "promote generally the development of all aspects of international civil aeronautics." Examples of its operational programs are aid in the development of ground services required by civil aviation, in commercial pilot training and in instruction in the maintenance of aircraft.
Expert scientists assert that adequately instrumented satellites may in the future provide information leading to enormous progress in weather forecasting, and that it may even be possible sometime to control weather from outer space. An international organization which deals with weather phenomena is already in existence. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO), which was founded “with a view to coordinating, standardizing, and improving world meteorological information between countries * * *,' supports the development of activities of international meteorological importance.
It is also anticipated that, through the use of outer-space vehicles, it will be possible in the future greatly to expand the range of broadcasting. Moreover, international communications could become vastly more effective if, as seems probable, signals emanating from some future properly equipped satellite will be impossible to jam. An international organization, the International Telecommunications Union, is already promoting the development and efficient operation of technical telecommunication facilities. Its operational program includes responding to requests from governments of underdeveloped countries for technical experts and the sponsorship and organization of fellowship programs on technical telecommunication problems. The Soviet Union is a member of all of these organizations except the ICAO.
International collaboration for the exploration and exploitation of outer space might well be conducted through one or a combination of the above-mentioned agencies. The International Atomic Energy Agency would seem to be peculiarly adapted to an expansion of its functions to embrace such collaboration, in view of the fact that it engages to a greater extent in operational activities than some of the others and includes important safeguards against the diversion of its resources to military purposes. In view of the uses to which outer-space instrumentalities could be put, this last consideration would seem to be of some importance. 4. Collaboration limited to pooling of information and research
An agency limited to this kind of function would not engaged in operational activities but would simply act as a clearinghouse for information and as a center for research or for the supervision or coordination of research. The international organizations already referred to—UNESCO, ICAO, WMO, and ITU, as well as the International Atomic Energy Agency-devote a major part of their effort to the gathering and dissemination of information and to the study of major problems arising in their particular fields.
For example, the ICAO has held regional air-navigation meetings to examine existing facilities for airports, navigational aids, communications, air-traffic con
10 Statement of Loftus E. Becker, legal adviser, Department of State, Special Senate Committee on Space and Astronautics, May 14, 1958.
trol, meteorology, and search and rescue and to determine what additional facilities and operating procedures were needed to make flying in the various re gions more satisfactory. Other subjects studied by ICAO include transport costs and rates for international air mail and the problem of multiple, discriminatory, and unfairly burdensome taxation. It continually collects, analyzes, and publishes statistical information relating to international aviation services. The other agencies engage in corresponding activities in their own fields.
Another example of an international organization established primarily for research and the dissemination of information, this one under nongovernmental auspices, is the one under which the present international satellite program is being carried out, the Special Committee for the International Geophysical Year. The organization of the International Geophysical Year is in most of its aspects highly decentralized. The participating national groups in each country have been left free to run their own programs. Overall coordination, organization, and collection and dissemination of information are being carried forward under the auspices of the International Council of Scientific Unions through the special committee. Only in the United States and in the Soviet Union have facilities been made available, under Government auspices, for the launching of artificial satellites, but a number of other nations have joined in tracing the orbits of the satellites and in recording the signals emitted from them. All participants in IGY agreed beforehand that there should be a full exchange of all data and three world data centers have been established to facilitate exchange.
Of particular note also is the International Astronautical Federation, a nongovernmental organization which engages in various activities designed to stimulate upper atmosphere research and exchange of information.
There have been a number of unofficial suggestions in the United States, as well as the official Soviet proposal, to the effect that the International Geophysical Year should be extended for a number of years or indefinitely, suggestions which if implemented would provide a means for a joint research and the pooling of information in a wide field of scientific endeavors, including outer-space exploration. A similar suggestion, although one not applied specifically to outer-space problems, has come from President Eisenhower who, in his 1958 state of the Union message, proposed a "full-scale cooperative program of science for peace.” He explained that
"A program of science for peace might provide a means of funneling into one place the results of research from scientists everywhere and from there making it available to all parts of the world * * *.”
Senator Alexander Wiley has called upon the scientists themselves to take the lead, as they have in the International Geophysical Year:
"I suggest that scientists of our Nation, working through national scientific organizations, investigate the possibility of forming an international scientific organization on outer-space problems. This group of scientists would represent the best brain power of all nations of the earth to plan for coordinated and dynamic programs of peaceful utilization of outer space * * *."
It should be noted, however, that it would be difficult for private scientific organizations to dispose of the means, physical or financial, for an exploration of the upper atmosphere. As has already been pointed out, the IGY satellite program, although conducted under nongovernmental auspices, has relied heavily upon the United States and Soviet Governments for facilities to carry out its major experiments. 5. The study and formulation of rules to govern the use of outer space
There is another approach to the problem of exploring space for peaceful purposes, and that is to seek some way of laying down rules which would have the effect of prohibiting military uses of outer space and of regulating peaceful uses. From a general point of view, the most important aspect of such rulemaking would have to do with limiting use to peaceful purposes. However, rules of this kind would be of little value with an inspection and control system to guarantee that they would be carried out by all. Although the United States and other nations have proposed the adoption of such rules and the establishment of a committee to study inspection and control, the Soviet Union has maintained that the subject can only be considered in relation to the elimination of what it terms “foreign military bases."
Sir Leslie Munro, present President of the U. N. General Assembly, has advanced the idea that the United Nations is the “proper * * * and only appro
11 Congressional Record, February 26, 1958, p. 2443.
priate body to establish a code of law and practice to deal with transit through outer space jurisdiction over such parts of it as men may reach." He suggests calling a diplomatic conference to draft appropriate conventions, explaining :
“While I favor the examination of the whole subject eventually in the U. N. Assembly, where all states, great and small, can be heard, I suggest that before the Assembly takes up the problem, a diplomatic conference similar to that on the law of the sea be held soon in Geneva. In such an expert gathering, diplomats and lawyers can take into account not only the legal but also the technical, economic, and political aspects of the problem and embody the results of their work in one or more international conventions or similar instruments."
There is no reason why the functions of the international organization already mentioned could not be extended to cover such rulemaking on peace-directed outer-space activities as may become necessary in the future. One of the most important functions of the International Civil Aviation Organization, for example, is to insure the highest practicable degree of uniformity in international civil aviation regulations. Toward this end the ICAO has adopted 15 sets of standards and recommended practices, which are constantly being revised. All 15 of these are in effect in all territories of ICAO's member states. Some of these standards, such as the following, could be revised to include outer-space activities :
(1) Meteorological codes—which specify the various systems used for the transmission of meteorological information;
(2) Aircraft nationality and registration marks;
(3) Aeornautical telecommunications dealing with the standardization of communications systems and radio air navigation aids;
(4) Aeronautical information services—dealing with the uniformity in methods of collection and dissemination of aeronautical information. In addition, ICAO has been instrumental in the drafting of various international air law conventions. It should be possible to extend the scope of ICAO's activities to cover the drafting of conventions regulating the use of outer space for peaceful purposes, at least in certain areas, if and when such conventions should become necessary.
Although the Soviet Union is not a member of the ICAO it has in the past tacitly conformed to international civil aviation practice. However, only if the Soviet Union actually became a member might it be advantageous to extend ICAO's functions to cover outer-space matters.
Similarly, one of the basic functions of the International Telecommunication Organization is to secure agreement among its members on operating practices, standards, and regulations to facilitate international communications by radio, as well as other mediums. Presumably its terms of reference already include any uses to which outer space vehicles may be put in the future for the improvement of telecommunications. The same thing could be said of the World Meteorological Organization. The WMO has established technical commissions which standardize methods, procedures and techniques in the application of meteorology and recommend technical regulations. There are technical commissions for aerology, aeronautical meteorology, agricultural meteorology, bibliography and publications, climatology, instruments and methods of observations, maritime meteorology, and synoptic meteorology. 6. Concluding comments
There have been numerous private proposals in the United States for the joint exploration of outer space for peaceful purposes, and semiofficial suggestions from both the United States and the Soviet Governments.
At best, the role of international organization would be that of coordinating a program of space research and development in which the United States, the Soviet Union and perhaps Great Britain were the major contributors. However, certain distinct advantages could accrue from such an initiative. The exploitation of outer space will require tremendous effort, both in terms of funds and of scientific brainpower, an effort which even the major powers may find hard to make alone. Through international organization a way could be opened for the employment of talents from anywhere, or at least the free world, in the tremendous creative undertakings which lie in the "leap into space."
It can also be argued that when nations strive together on enterprises of great magnitude and international significance, the results can be both generally
12 Munro, Leslie. Law for the Heaven's Pathless Way, New York Times Magazine, February 16, 1958, p. 80.