The Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, better known as the Moon Treaty or Moon Agreement, is an international treaty that turns jurisdiction of all celestial bodies (including the orbits around such bodies) over to the international community. Thus, all activities must conform to international law, including the United Nations Charter.
In practice it is a failed treaty because it has not been ratified by any state that engages in self-launched manned space exploration or has plans to do so (e.g. the United States, the larger part of the member states of the European Space Agency, Russia (former Soviet Union), People's Republic of China, Japan, and India) since its creation in 1979, and thus has a negligible effect on actual spaceflight. As of November 2016, it has been ratified by 17 states.
As a follow-on to the Outer Space Treaty, the Moon Treaty intended to establish a regime for the use of the Moon and other celestial bodies similar to the one established for the sea floor in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The treaty would apply to the Moon and to other celestial bodies within the Solar System, other than Earth, including orbits around or other trajectories to or around them.
The treaty makes a declaration that the Moon should be used for the benefit of all states and all peoples of the international community. It also expresses a desire to prevent the Moon from becoming a source of international conflict. To those ends the treaty does the following:
The treaty was finalized in 1979 and entered into force for the ratifying parties in 1984. As of November 2016, 17 states are parties to the treaty, seven of which ratified the agreement and the rest acceded. Four additional states have signed but not ratified the treaty. The L5 Society and others successfully opposed ratification of the treaty by the United States Senate.
The objection to the treaty by the spacefaring nations is held to be the requirement that extracted resources (and the technology used to that end) must be shared with other nations. The similar regime in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea is believed to impede the development of such industries on the seabed.
|Australia||7 Jul 1986||Accession|
|Austria||21 May 1980||11 Jun 1984||Ratification|
|Belgium||29 Jun 2004||Accession|
|Chile||3 Jan 1980||12 Nov 1981||Ratification|
|Kazakhstan||11 Jan 2001||Accession|
|Kuwait||28 Apr 2014||Accession|
|Lebanon||12 Apr 2006||Accession|
|Mexico||11 Oct 1991||Accession|
|Morocco||25 Jul 1980||21 Jan 1993||Ratification|
|Netherlands||27 Jan 1981||17 Feb 1983||Ratification|
|Pakistan||27 Feb 1986||Accession|
|Peru||23 Jun 1981||23 Nov 2005||Ratification|
|Philippines||23 Apr 1980||26 May 1981||Ratification|
|Saudi Arabia||18 Jul 2012||Accession|
|Turkey||29 Feb 2012||Accession|
|Uruguay||1 Jun 1981||9 Nov 1981||Ratification|
|Venezuela||3 Nov 2016||Accession|
|France||29 Jan 1980|
|Guatemala||20 Nov 1980|
|India||18 Jan 1982|
|Romania||17 Apr 1980|
Assuming that the Moon Treaty has no legal effect because of the non-participation of the Big Three is folly. The shadow of customary law and its ability to creep into the vacuum left vacant by treaty law should not be underestimated. To that end, the most effective way of dealing with the question of the Moon Treaty’s validity is to officially denounce it. However, the realities of international politics and diplomacy will likely preclude such an action. The alternative is to act in a manner contrary to the Moon Treaty, and more importantly not to act in conformity with its precepts and hope that is sufficient to turn back the shadows of the Moon Treaty.