Счастливая Щ0тю Годовщина, Sputnik!
Here in the US, in the wake of the shock and awe from that globally mesmerizing first satellite on Oct. 10, 1957, fast reacting lawmakers launched space legislation in the form of the National Aeronautics and Space Act (signed into law by President Eisenhower in July 1958; we'll light NASA's 50th birthday candles next year), created new standing Congressional committees devoted to space and science, and increased federal funding for science and development. Just for starters. Lawyers couldn't be happier.
Internationally, over at the UN, space law-making began in 1958 when the General Assembly established the ad hoc Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (resolution 1348 (XIII)), and 1959, made COPUOS a permanent organization (resolution 1472 (XIV). (It now has 67 members.) Courtesy of COPUOS we now have five international legal instruments and five sets of legal principles governing space-related activities, including the grandma of all space treaties, the Outer Space Treaty which entered into force on Oct. 10, 1967 (later, space law authority Prof. Bin Cheng noted, "the treaty was drawn up not only in some haste within the space of less than 12 months, but also less than ten years after the launch of the earth's first artificial satellite.")
And today many nations are drafting their own new space legislation; and forward-thinking state lawmakers have begun to craft commercial space age law, too.
Space lawyers are busy.
Naturally certain space law born of the Cold War has grown dated. Like space endeavours themselves, applicable law must continue to evolve. And that's all to the good. Leading space law pioneer and guru, Dr. Eileen Galloway recalled, "When we came together to begin drafting space law, it was somewhat unbelievable." Indeed it must have been. And here is a classic and fascinating Dr. Galloway speech entitled, Organizing The United States Government For Outer Space: 1957-1958, which she gave at a symposium, Reconsidering Sputnik: Forty Years Since The Soviet Sputnik, sponsored by the NASA Office of Policy & Plans; National Air & Space Museum; George Washington University Space Policy Institute and Kenan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC on Sept. 30 - Oct. 1, 1997. Read the whole thing.
(Some folks still ask, why do we need space law anyway? Well perhaps on a world in a parallel universe somewhere, the two resident superpowers pony up for the beginning of the space age, no lawyers join in, and that's fine. But not on this planet. Here you need lawyers. It's an Earth thing.)
So today, space lawyers and space agers alike say spaseeba! Thank you, Sputnik, for everything. And the first 50 years of this thing was just a warm up.
As we say here on SLP, the space law adventure is just beginning.