Access and Benefit Sharing in International Law
Intellectual Property and the Environment series
Chapter 3: Outer space and planetary objects
When the Soviet Union eventually launched Sputnick 1 on 4 October 1957 the UN responded soon afterwards with a resolution adopted by the General Assembly that ‘the sending of objects through outer space should be exclusively for peaceful and scientific purposes’. This was perhaps a surprising approach at the time as previous agreements addressing the space above land and water with the advent of sustained balloon and aeroplane flight expressly recognised Nation State sovereignty of the airspace over that state’s lands and waters. There was little question or doubt then that a state’s sovereignty extended to the airspaces used by balloons and aeroplanes in the same way a state might regulate other activities within its territory. With the advent of space flight in the regions above the reach of balloons and aeroplanes, and recognition of this as a region beyond state sovereignty, another agreement was required. This also reflected concern about the threat of war conducted in space between the nuclear armed United States and the Soviet Union as the then superpowers. In this context the development of outer space free of sovereignty claims was a means of limiting a further escalation of the cold war into space.
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