This article will consider the ways states have exercised imperialism over Antarctica, focusing on two methods: the use of administrative acts and control over scientific research and resources. The article will then compare the Outer Space Treaty and the Antarctic Treaty System around these two methods, as well as the use of military capabilities as an important aspect of imperial control, to question whether space law prohibits imperialism. The Outer Space Treaty seeks to prevent the militarisation of space, the unequal use of resources and claims of sovereignty. However, given the methods of imperialism on Antarctica and the underdevelopment of space law, this kind of imperialism may also be exercised in outer space. It will argue that while formal sovereignty claims are prevented, de facto exclusive claims are not. The establishment of permanent bases under the jurisdiction of the sender state, and the commercial opportunities presented by scientific research and the exploitation of resources create incentives for the use of the military which is also not satisfactorily regulated by international space law.
- States have commercial incentives to make de facto exclusive claims over territory on Mars and conduct imperialist activities in much the same way as they did on Antarctica, such as by installing permanent stations on its surface, and can do so without violating the Outer Space Treaty. The Outer Space Treaty also does not prohibit the stationing of military capabilities in space to defend national interests.
- While space law needs further development to achieve its stated aims, the gap is being filled by the laws of war and national legislation, neither of which prevent imperialist exercises.
- What is needed to prevent imperialism is legislation that is truly international – decided by a number of states in a way that prevents particular states or regions from exploiting the others – and far more specific in regulating the administrative acts, exploitation of resources and militarisation.
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