Elias Walker

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Water has always been the most valuable resource on our little blue planet. Since the dawn of civilization, water has been at the center of human economic, military, and technological advancement. It has long been known that whoever controls access to water holds the reins of power.

The modern era of outer space exploration is certainly no exception to water centrality. As space resource exploitation becomes an increasingly viable and lucrative sector of the globalized economy, both private and public entities have set their eyes on the vast water resources situated on and within celestial bodies, such as asteroids, planets, and moons.

The incalculable value of water has resulted in nations around the world creating domestic and international rules governing water rights on Earth. The field of space law, however, has not fully reckoned with the implications of the seemingly limitless celestial water resources ripe for exploitation. The current legal regimes governing celestial water resource collection and allocation are largely inadequate to guide those looking to harness celestial water. As climate change threatens Earth’s dwindling freshwater reserves, the importance of regulating celestial water increases. Without forward-looking international consensus on how to regulate and manage water resources, humankind stands wholly unprepared to peacefully and efficiently utilize celestial water resources.

This Note acts as a guide for lawmakers and legal thinkers who seek to preemptively fill the legal gaps in current celestial water law. The unique environment of outer space further serves to complicate the issue, lowering the usefulness of mapping Earth-based water law blindly onto space law. The special properties of water set it apart from other celestial resources. Water not only provides life-sustaining nourishment for spacefarers but also presents additional scientific and economic use in outer space as rocket fuel. Moreover, the stark difference between developed and developing nations who seek access to harvested celestial water provides an additional hurdle on what a “fair” framework would entail. These challenges necessitate a thoughtful, comprehensive international treaty regulating celestial water rights and use as soon as possible.

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