Human Planetary Exploration: Legal Aspects

Human Planetary Exploration: Legal Aspects

Anja Nakarada Pecujlic (University of Cologne, Germany)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7256-5.ch015
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This chapter examines the legal implications of the ambitious plans to send manned missions to Mars and establish permanent human presence in outer space announced. It addresses the concept of “colonizing planets” and its potential consequences. It offers an overview of the applicable existing legal norms and presents a number of potential legal scenarios concerning the governance of permanent human habitant in outer space. Even though technology is not completely there yet, we should not wait for the space shuttle to be ready to board in order in the nearest future to start discussing potential legal frameworks required to govern multi-planetary existence.
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In the first phase of the Space Age, space technology was developing at a slow pace, there were only a few actors and possible space activities were very limited. However, nowadays, things are different. There are numerous new space applications that influence new business models and challenge the current legal framework. Furthermore, in recent years, the rise of private space actors is such that they have achieved a predominant role in the space domain. (Bank of America Merill Lynch, 2017) This dominance initiated a second space race, the race between various players in the private sector competing for national contracts and tenders. In addition, private actors are also competing for media attention. Therefore, they often make “sensationalistic” statements that run contrary to the well-established legal principles governing space activities.1

In addition, rivalry tends to spill over from the commercial sector to the state, forcing governmental space agencies to enter the race with the private industry regarding break-through missions, i.e. human space exploration missions. The question as to who is going to be the first to deploy a manned mission to Mars has become another axis of the competition. This fear that the governmental sector has been left behind, has led to several public declarations announcing the refocusing of national space policies, increasingly towards human space exploration. This is exemplified by the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) commitment to accelerate the global development of space exploration and space habitation through projects like UAE Mars City and the Mars 2117; as well as by the US Space Policy Directive 1, which provides for a government-led, integrated program, with private sector partners, for a human return to the Moon, followed by deep-space and missions to Mars. (Science Alert, 2018) (NASA Press Release, 2017)

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