Tragedy of Commons in Outer Space - The Case of Space Debris
64th International Astronautical Congress 2013, 56th IISL Colloquium on the Law of Outer Space (E7)
19 Pages Posted: 5 May 2013 Last revised: 7 Jun 2013
Date Written: May 4, 2013
The state’s right to outer space is far from clear delimitation. Outer space is a typical commons, which means every sovereign state has the right to use the outer space and no state has the right to exclude others from using the outer space. The logic of tragedy of commons equally applies in outer space which means the resource of outer space will inevitably be over-used - for example, the space debris. Space debris is the collateral pollution of the exploration of outer space, which can be categorized in negative externality. The article seeks to frame the space debris problem in perspective of basic property theory.
With an increasing feasible access to outer space for both states and individuals, the property rights logic underlying space treaties as a whole needs to be re-evaluated. Privatization is the way to overcome tragedy of the commons, outer space in this article. As a kind of overuse of outer space, space debris mitigation problem should be re-conceptualized reassessed in light of proper rights theory. De facto property rights of outer space resources have existed all the time despite its informal legal status. Three approaches of international community to space debris mitigation are proposed by the article along with analysis of cost thereof.
As a priority issue of space exploitation, justification of limited property rights to outer space resources has been analyzed in the light of real constraints and challenges to international collective action to space debris mitigation. Despite of the prematureness of comprehensive outer space regulation framework, the advance of technology has made space debris mitigation a really pressing, if not the most emergent, issue in outer space exploitation.
Keywords: outer space, property rights, space debris, cost-benefit analysis, tragedy of the commons
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