Law, College of


Date of this Version



Published in WILLIAM AND MARY LAW REVIEW 9 (1968), pp. 630-663; reprinted in SPACE LAW, edited by Francis Lyall and Paul B. Larsen (Ashgate, 2007), pp. 203-236.


On December 19, 1967, the General Assembly of the United Nations by a vote of 115-0 approved an "Agreement on the Rescue of Astronauts, the Return of Astronauts, and the Return of Objects Launched in Outer Space"; requested the Depositary Governments "to open the Agreement for signature and ratification at the earliest possible date"; and expressed its hope "for the widest possible adherence to this Agreement." This approval by the General Assembly marked the climax of almost a decade of efforts to secure widespread international agreement on procedures assuring the humanitarian and scientific objectives of the rescue of astronauts in distress, their return, and the return of space objects. It is the purpose of this paper to trace the development of the Assistance and Return Agreement, and to examine the text of its various provisions in order to provide some understanding of the rights and obligations created thereby.