Friday, 13 October 2017

What NASA’s simulated missions tell us about the need for Martian law

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What NASA’s simulated missions tell us about the need for Martian law
Six people recently returned from an eight-month long isolation experiment to test human endurance for long-term space missions. Their “journey to Mars” involved being isolated below the summit of the world’s largest active volcano in Hawaii (Mauna Loa), and was designed to better understand the psychological impacts of manned missions.
NASA, which aims to send expeditions to Mars by the 2030s, is hoping that the results could help them pick crew members for a future mission to Mars. And it’s not just NASA that has an eye on Mars. Maverick millionaire Elon Musk and aerospace firm Lockheed Martin have heralded separate missions and stations for the red planet between 2022 and 2028.
Indeed, scientific discovery is making a Martian Eldorado a feasible dream at breathtaking speed. Last month, China claimed to have developed a “physics-defying EmDrive”, which would allow humans to journey to Mars in weeks. With or without this engine, it seems humans are on the inevitable trajectory to colonise Mars.
It is therefore becoming as important to ask what laws will govern humans on Mars as it is to ask whether we could survive on the planet’s surface. Unexpectedly, this may be something that isolation experiments could help with.

Settled law on space stations

Space law has always supported the position that objects and stations placed on celestial bodies are to remain under national ownership, jurisdiction and control. Private companies or other entrepreneurs cannot therefore have legitimacy or mine these bodies for resources unless they exercise lawful control through a sovereign state.
Current rules say the establishment of a space station and the area required for its operation should be notified to the Secretary-General of the United Nations. These would then be under the exclusive jurisdiction of the state where the spacecraft is registered or the state bringing the component parts of the station.
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