Outer space needs a high-level political summit | Space

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Outer space issues have never been comprehensively addressed at a global high political level, and 2024 is an excellent year to commit to that goal. Three prior global UNISpace conferences (in 1968, 1982 and 1999) achieved clear multilateral diplomatic progress and shaped key future discussions on how to use space peacefully and to the benefit of humanity. Since then, scientists and individual governments have played an indispensable role in fostering safe, sustainable space activities, providing a solid shared foundation for global political progress at the highest level. Now the stage is set.

This absence to date of a major, global high-level discussion on space is unfortunate. Military, civilian and commercial actions are surging ahead in cislunar space and on the moon’s surface. And despite the work that’s been done at the U.N. level, there is a clear lack of progress at national levels, for example, on orbital congestion, orbital debris, and the mounting competition in the orbital cislunar environment.

At the moment, even with history staring us in the eye, we seem to be careening towards intensified competition and even conflict in space. The world risks repeating what happened to humankind five centuries ago when unbridled competition for new territory and resources produced a skein of wars and economic turmoil. The purpose of existing international space law is to prevent that bloody history from repeating itself in space. That body of work is powerful but leaves unresolved a spectrum of problems arising from new kinds of space activities as well as the proliferation of new governmental and non-governmental space actors.

Within the current configuration of knowledge and urgency, the United States can play a key role in creating a framework for progress. The nation’s success with the Artemis Accords and its major share of current space activity solidify its role as a leader in the peaceful use and exploration of outer space…

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