Outer Space and International Diplomacy

John M. Logsdon
Content Type
Journal Article
The Ambassador's Review
Publication Date
Spring 2021
Council of American Ambassadors
Addressing the General Assembly of the United Nations on September 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy proclaimed that “the new horizons of outer space must not be driven by the old bitter conflicts of imperialism and sovereign claims.” Kennedy announced that the United States would “urge proposals extending the United Nations Charter to the limits of man’s exploration of the universe, reserving outer space for peaceful use, prohibiting weapons of mass destruction in space or on celestial bodies, and opening the mysteries and benefits of space to every nation.”[1] Just over five years later, after several rounds of negotiations carried out primarily with the Soviet Union but within the framework of the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS), the “Treaty on Principles Governing the Activity of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies” was opened for signature on January 27, 1967.[2] As of February 2021, 111 nation states, including all major space-faring countries, are party to that treaty; another 23 have signed the treaty but not yet ratified it. The principles set out in the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, supplemented over the more than 50 years since 1967 by four implementing treaties and a number of non-binding statements of principles and multilateral agreements, constitute today’s international governance framework for space activities. It was Kennedy’s 1961 speech that started the process of creating that framework. President Joseph Biden has a similar opportunity, 60 years later, to take the lead in updating space governance for the 21st century.
Diplomacy, Treaties and Agreements, Governance, Space
Political Geography
North America, United States of America