As COPUOS has shown, space sustainability is indeed a long-term and living process: the already formulated guidelines are tested by practice, gaps are revealed, and updated orbital statistics adds to concerns. Multiple details have to be considered to ensure safe and predictable space operations, but if LTS is to be enforceable, its regulatory regime – efficient, it is important to keep in mind the bigger picture, to build a single system on the hard-won foundation we have today.
Making space sustainable for future generations is a tremendous task. We can only assume that those who succeed us will want the same things as we do. Even today, different people and peoples have different needs, including when it comes to space. Some may not have the means to access space today, to enjoy benefits of certain space applications, although they may well wish to engage in space operations later but under the current conditions – that is free from restrictions that may be imposed while they are getting ready. This approach deserves attention and respect. Otherwise the ongoing rule-making may result in compromised universality of the legal order regarding outer space.
The Outer Space Treaty provides common grounds, whereas the LTS Guidelines propose specific steps. The problem arises when parties use the same words and notions but imply varying meaning (good examples from the OST are the terms ‘celestial body’ and ‘non-appropriation’). With no explicit definitions, it is therefore essential for space lawyers to do the fascinating exercise of authentic interpretation. This useful instrument may help explain ourselves and others why rules were required when space was opening up for first exploration, why law is important now when heavy exploitation is approaching, and why it will still be useful for our children, for instance, to spend a quality vacation on Mars. At least the way we can imagine it today.