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Taking a giant leap for a new ethics in outer space

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  • Published
    22nd Sep, 2023


After the success of space mission like Chandrayaan-3 by India, the other countries are also trying to reach out the places unexplored in outer space, especially on moon like what we did with Antarctica. Hence, it raises question on human political instinct to remain first and its ethics.

Territorial Claims in Antarctica

  • Human Instinct for Exploration: There is a human instinct for exploration and the desire to claim territories before others, highlighting its political significance.
  • Race to the South Pole: As previously we saw the historical race to the South Pole in the early 20th century between British naval officer Robert Scott and Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen.
  • Territorial Claims in Antarctica: Presently, several countries, including Norway and Britain, claimed territories in Antarctica after these explorations. Additionally, it questions the purpose of these claims on an inhospitable continent.

The Antarctic Treaty and Regulation

  • The Antarctic Treaty: The International Geophysical Year (IGY) in 1958 has led to concerns about Cold War rivalry and the need for regulation in Antarctica.
  • Provisions of the Treaty: It prohibited nuclear testing, military operations, economic exploitation, and further territorial claims. Currently, 54 parties, including India, are part of the Treaty.
  • Challenges in Maintaining Ecological Integrity: It raises questions about whether the benefits of scientific research justify the ecological footprint on the continent.

Need for Ethical Standards

  • Exploration of Outer Space: It highlights the race to explore the moon, with India's Chandrayaan-3 being one of the missions.
  • The Moon Agreement: It is the time to overview the Moon Agreement, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1979, which emphasizes peaceful use of the moon, the common heritage of mankind, and the need for international regulation of resource exploitation.
  • Crafting a New Ethical Framework: There is a need for a new ethical framework for human activity in outer space, aligning with the moral responsibility to protect outer space from militarization and debris.

Ethical Values associated:

Ethical Values and Concepts Related to Human Instinct to Remain First and Outer Space Exploitation:

  • Common Heritage of Mankind: The concept of the "common heritage of mankind" is an ethical principle that suggests that outer space and celestial bodies should be considered the shared inheritance of all humanity.
    • It emphasizes that the benefits and resources of outer space should be used for the collective good of humanity, rather than being claimed and exploited by individual nations or entities.
  • Environmental Ethics: Outer space exploration raises concerns about the potential environmental impact on celestial bodies and space debris.
    • Ethical considerations call for responsible and sustainable exploration practices that minimize harm to the natural environment of outer space and celestial bodies.
  • Non-Militarization: Ethical values promote the non-militarization of outer space, advocating for the peaceful use of space and the prevention of an arms race beyond Earth.
    • This principle aims to maintain the stability and security of space for the benefit of all.
  • Global Cooperation: Ethical concepts emphasize the importance of international collaboration and cooperation in outer space activities.
    • Space-faring nations should work together to ensure the responsible use of outer space and to address shared challenges, such as space debris management and asteroid impact mitigation.
    • Intergenerational Equity: Ethical considerations extend to future generations and advocate for the responsible use of outer space resources to ensure that benefits are not exhausted at the expense of future inhabitants of Earth or space. This concept promotes long-term sustainability in space exploration and resource utilization.


As India has always been to safeguard the national and international interest either at Antarctica or on moon and it can play a significant role in policy for all to maintain balance.


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