UNCLOS can easily be adapted to meet needs of outer space law
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The good news is we need not start from scratch. There already exists a body of law that can be adapted, perhaps easily, to the needs of outer space. The U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) has provisions for managing the traffic on the surface and the resources on the deep seabed.85 Space, like the sea, has vast amounts of area that is impractical for any one nation to claim.
Hugo Grotius, a pioneer of international law, preferred the term res extra commercium in referring to the open ocean. He proposed the “freedom of the seas” doctrine, whereby the ocean is insusceptible of ownership as it cannot be occupied, and no one has the “right to appropriate things which by nature may be used by everybody and are inexhaustible.”86
Being incapable of ownership and available for everyone’s use are the very same concepts expressed in Article I of the Outer Space Treaty that allow freedom of access and exploration and grant freedom of movement throughout. The Law of the Sea Treaty contains the very same concepts and almost the very same words to describe the territories of the deep seabed as are used in the Preamble and Article I of the Outer Space Treaty to describe space. UNCLOS also speaks to the resources of the sea being the common heritage of mankind, requiring “the equitable and efficient utilization of their resources.”87
[T]he area of the seabed and ocean floor and the subsoil thereof, beyond the limits of national jurisdiction, as well as its resources, are the common heritage of mankind, the exploration and exploitation of which shall be carried out for the benefit of mankind as a whole, irrespective of the geographical location of States.88
The solutions the international community worked out to resolve some of the most contentious issues over ocean governance -- specifically, how to equitably divide up a common shared resource, how to sustainably manage the global commons for the benefit of all, and how to ensure all states have the freedom to navigate a global common -- have potential to serve as the basis for a similar agreement for outer space.