Today, TechFreedom filed comments in response to NASA’s Office of Technology, Policy, and Strategy (OTPS) request for information (RFI) regarding their Lunar Non-Interference Questionnaire intended to inform the development of a framework for further work on developing standards for operations on the Moon based on the concept of non-interference. Developing a framework to allow multiple entities to conduct lunar operations free from harm and interference from others is vital if we want to explore and develop the vast resources of space. Our comments focus mainly on legal issues related to NASA’s role in developing norms for outer space activities, and how this proceeding fits into the larger story of American leadership in space.

“The questionnaire lacks the necessary framing and context to produce useful results,” said James E. Dunstan, TechFreedom’s Senior Counsel. “The questionnaire asks for input on four broad topics but provides virtually no context or other framing to assist those seeking to comment. As a result, responses are sure to vary considerably. Additionally, the RFI’s lack of legal explanation for the sought-after definitions will likely render the results unhelpful for developing a strategy to prevent harmful interference on the Moon. Therefore, as part of this process, NASA should seek out and integrate the input from space law scholars and practitioners, who can provide much-needed context to the issues outlined in the RFI.” 

“NASA’s authority to develop a framework for future work is highly questionable,” Dunstan continued. “This proceeding will clearly involve complex legal and diplomatic issues. While NASA may have technical expertise in this area, and certainly can tap into the space scientific and commercial community for feedback and support, NASA is neither a regulatory agency nor a formal diplomatic arm of the U.S. government. Before it embarks on serious consideration of these issues, its statutory authority over international space law issues must be examined.”

“NASA lacks the necessary legal and foreign policy expertise to act independently in this area,” Dunstan concluded. “Fundamentally, these are legal and diplomatic issues, not technical ones. So, while NASA may seek input from the scientific or technical community, as it is doing with its questionnaire, it is the lawyers and diplomats who must develop the legal and international norms and agreements that will shape lunar development. Ignoring the key legal issues will render the output of this exercise of little use or consequence.” 


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