461. Telegram From the Mission at the United Nations to the Department of State1

Delga 16. Re: Outer Space. Successful Soviet moon shot2 coinciding with start of Khrushchev visit to US3 can be expected to give added impetus and urgency to demands for international action to regulate activities in outer space. To date, US has provided leadership in UN consideration of space question, and our efforts have borne sound fruit in report of UN ad hoc committee. We will also face difficult problem in negotiations with USSR at this GA on composition of continuing UN body to deal with space problems. Believe it would be greatly to US advantage again to take lead, on substantive as well as other aspects of outer space item in 14th GA.

Accordingly, recommend for Department’s consideration following elements for inclusion in US presentation;

Celestial bodies: Successful moon shot is great achievement and will be followed by ever-increasing and expanding ventures in space exploration. Now that international community is thus on threshold of space age, US proposes that nations of world follow up their recognition that man’s entry into outer space is a concern of Earth as a whole by adopting practical measures to promote scientific progress in harmony among the nations. Specifically, US proposes that (a) exploration and activities in connection with celestial bodies shall not lead to claims of sovereignty by any nation; (b) that such bodies in outer space shall be considered as open to all on a non-exclusive basis so long as a particular planned activity would not interfere with some other project already undertaken; (c) that an international clearing-house be set up for consultation on all activities be undertaken only after consultation through this clearing-house and in a spirit of harmonious cooperativeness. US suggests that continuing UN body to be set up by GA give early attention to working out of suitable steps and arrangements in implementation of these proposals.
Identification and registration of all satellite launchings. US believes UN body should also study means for providing appropriate system of identification for all objects placed in orbit around Earth. Here again international clearing-house could be useful mechanism. US also proposes consultation through [UN body.?] Such consultation could aid in operating identification system and in avoiding cluttering of tracking devices. UN body could also usefully consider means that [Page 893] might be adopted for removal of spent objects from orbit or at least termination of their radio transmissions when purpose fulfilled and usefulness ended.
Liability. US proposes study of practical measures to deal with instances that may occur of damage caused by accidents involving space vehicles. Such study could be undertaken by continuing UN body or by group of experts which might be recommended by UN body.
Disarmament aspects. US along with other countries has long recognized problem of potential uses of outer space for weapons purposes. US nearly three years ago proposed study of means to assure use of outer space for peaceful purposes only. It is our belief that such study should be undertaken in connection with other questions of disarmament where problem of inspection to verify compliance with obligations is common to all. However, US would not make disarmament measures for outer space conditional on agreements elsewhere in disarmament field. And, of course, US does not intend to make other proposals on outer space (outlined in paragraphs 1 to 3 above) dependent on any agreement in disarmament field.

These proposals stand on their own, and independently of each other. US hopes all or at least some of these will continue to give UN activities in space field sound direction; (b) [sic] impress upon world statesmanlike and enlightened attitude of US; and (c) identify to USSR with greater particularly [particularity?] projects we have in mind for continuing UN body.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 701.022/9–1859. Confidential. Herter was in New York for the 14th regular session of the U.N. General Assembly.
  2. The Soviet Union launched Lunik II on September 12 and it struck the Moon on the following day.
  3. Documentation on Khrushchev’s visit to the United States, September 15–27, is scheduled for publication in volume x.