An Important, But Overlooked Event

US stakes claim on space
New policy just slightly territorial
By Lucy Sherriff
Published Thursday 19th October 2006 13:06 GMT

The US has claimed “dibs” on the Universe with its new space policy. The document, signed by President Bush, was released on a Friday, just before a long weekend in the States. This, in itself has caused a bit of a stir, but not more so than the tone and content of the document.

In it, the US government allocates itself rights to access and use space without anyone else getting in its way. It also sets security at the heart of the space agenda, frequently citing its right to use space as part of its national defence.

Significantly, however, it does not commit to restrict, or even to join talks about restricting the development of space-based weapons. This is despite a UN vote last year in which 160 nations voted in favour of such talks.

The first bullet point outlining the principles of the programme sets the tone for the rest of the document:

“The United States is committed to the exploration and use of outer space by all nations for peaceful purposes, and for the benefit of all humanity. Consistent with this principle, ‘peaceful purposes’ allow US defence and intelligence-related activities in pursuit of national interests.

In other words: “Everyone has to use space peacefully, except us. We can do what we like, cos we were here first(*). And anyway, if you try to stop us, it won’t stay peaceful for long, which would spoil the first part of our principle.”

The rest of the article is here.

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