1968 Astronaut Rescue Agreement

Introduction-Rescue Agreement

Space Law was an interesting topic in 1968, because it constituted more than just the dos and don’ts of space travel: it was also a platform for political contention. The 1968 Rescue Agreement could be analyzed in several ways, which is interesting in terms of using it as a site of memory. The very language within the treaty was one of the points of interest.

The Actual Agreement-What is It?  [4]

The agreement itself consists of ten articles outlining what space authorities should do in case of a space-related crisis. One of the more important articles is Article 8, which notes that any nation can amend the document[4]. This is further an example of how this agreement can be considered a site of memory, as it was written to be changed, which means it could be used as a memory, to perhaps advance political agenda, as well as processual, as it could constantly be changed.

Article 9 in the agreement states that any nation could withdraw from the agreement [4]. This choice of whether or not to help other astronauts at the time reflects an attitude during the year of 1968 of politics over morality regarding the space age.

Evolution in Space Travel-Outer Space Treaty 

Space travel encouraged communication between different nations about the terms of traveling in space, which is where the United Nations Outer Space Treaty in 1967 stemmed from [2]. What preceded the addition of the Rescue Agreement in 1968 was an exhaustive list of certain rules about obtaining objects in space, among other things. The issue of foreign affairs in space, and when it would become useful to assist other countries in space was a point of contention, as there was already tension between countries on Earth, especially between the US and the USSR.

It is interesting how space travel introduced a whole new way of remembering foreign relations, and how it introduced a set of laws and negotiations. The whole idea of space travel is a processual memory. In the case of the Rescue agreement in 1968 in particular, this part of space travel could be considered a useful memory, as it influenced foreign relations.

First Committee Meeting-1966 [3]

Further Analysis of Rescue Agreement 

There were three specific laws outlined in the agreement, which basically all stated that there should be equal treatment of astronauts of any nation. Frans G. von der Dunk notes in his article regarding the rescue agreement how the term “astronaut” is used as opposed to “cosmonaut,” a USSR term [1]. This language in the agreement could be analyzed as an example of how this agreement, seemingly permanent, could be looked at as a useful memory. It could be looked at under changing perspectives.

What about 1968? Representation of the year in this agreement

This agreement on the rescue of astronauts was evident of the evolving nature of space relations among different nations, as well as the continuing power that both the US and USSR at the time were gaining in the space race. The main characteristic of the rescue agreement that reflected the tumultuous year of 1968 was how it tried to assert dominance of the space superpowers (US AND USSR), while at the same time it tried to include all nations in the discussion surrounding space law.

According to von der Dunk, there were a lot of different aspects of the rescue agreement that were too ambiguous to be sufficient law, which was also a way of using this memory of space law to input certain ideals relating to US-USSR relations into a more formal document [1]. The 1968 agreement was also reflective of who, during that year, were the main contributors to the space race, and that was the US and the USSR.


  1. von der Dunk, Frans G., “A Sleeping Beauty Awakens: The 1968 Rescue Agreement Forty after Years.” Space, Cyber, and Telecommunications Law Program Faculty Publications. 29.34 (2008): 411-434. Web.  https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1028&context=spacelaw
  2. Wheeler, Joanne. International Space Law and Prospective Reforms. Harvard University, Mar. 2012. Web.
  3. Kopal, Vladimir. Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies. Dec. 1966. Web.
  4. Agreement on the Rescue of Astronauts, the Return of Astronauts and the Return of Objects Launched into Outer Space. Retrieved from: Ole Miss Database. Web. http://www.spacelaw.olemiss.edu/library/space/International_Agreements/Mulilateral/1968%20R%20and%20R%20Agreement.pdf



2 thoughts on “1968 Astronaut Rescue Agreement”

  1. Interesting look at foreign agreements, I had never heard of these rescue agreements. Good use of explaining the processual memory of foreign relations. Interesting to see how this was formed considering space travel was so new at the time.

  2. I learned a lot from this post, as I had never even heard of the 1968 Astronaut Rescue Agreement. You mentioned that the valuing of politics over morality tells us something about 1968. Do you think politics is still valued over morality? I would also like to ask-what are the latest developments in the space race? Also, I wonder if this pact has ever been put to use. Nice job live linking “space travel;” it helps the reader further engage with 1968. Providing an example of the language used in the document (the usage of astronaut instead of cosmonaut) helps show that the pact really was intended to aid astronauts from all nations involved. I think that more pictures, or maybe even a video, would help to break up the text and make the post more interesting. All in all, I think you did a fantastic job with this post. Good work!

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