By Invitation

Who gets to call the shots in space?

As big powers and private companies take their terrestrial rivalry to the Moon and the stars, new rules are needed for the final frontier.

A series of recent developments have underlined at once the urgency and difficulty of writing new rules for governing outer space. The growing number of players, new commercial possibilities and the temptation of turning ploughshares into swords are making the final frontier an increasingly attractive and a deeply contested domain.

Consider the following: Last month, India used a missile system to shoot down a satellite orbiting Earth at a low altitude. This week, a privately funded Israeli lunar rover crash-landed on the Moon. Although the mission ended in failure, Israeli sponsors claim it is "by far the smallest, cheapest spacecraft ever to get to the Moon". The venture came out of a space prize competition launched by Google in 2007. If the rover had soft-landed, Israel would have become the fourth member of the lunar-lander club. India, meanwhile, was only the fourth country to test an anti-satellite (Asat) weapon.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 13, 2019, with the headline 'Who gets to call the shots in space?'. Print Edition | Subscribe