With the recent outpour of articles and opinions on SpaceX new statement on thir missions to colonizes Mars, many people might be wondering what going on and why is it a big deal.
Well, the uproar started with Elon Musk’s SpaceX announcing that they believe Mars to be a free planet. This has lead to the company state their own ideas on what the governing laws for a SpaceX colony would be. These ideas are laid out in their update to Starlinks term of service in sections 9
Sections 9 Governing Laws
“For Services provided to, on, or in orbit around the planet Earth or the Moon, these Terms and any disputes between us arising out of or related to these Terms, including disputes regarding arbitrability (‘Disputes’) will be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of the State of California in the United States.
For Services provided on Mars, or in transit to Mars via Starship or other colonization spacecraft, the parties recognize Mars as a free planet and that no Earth-based government has authority or sovereignty over Martian activities.
Accordingly, Disputes will be settled through self-governing principles, established in good faith, at the time of Martian settlement.”
Opinions on The Matters
What do people think of a private company making its own laws in space? Well, a short look at popular tweets demonstrates the two main trends in conversations about the SpaceX announcement.
These trends tend to show large outrage about a private company even saying that they have a right to make laws on another planet. With a lot of them referencing international law still having domain over Mars, while other state that international law only has power over countries who follow it on earth and Mars will and should develop its own laws by the people who live there.
Another common reply to the outrage was why should we recognize international law on a different plant and who will enforce earth based laws. This leads to many other big questions regarding space laws.
The law in Space
There have been agreements between countries on international level and some of them have started to draw up laws on what private organizations can or cannot do in space.
An example of international space law is the Outer Space Treaty (1967) which goes over regulations on how countries should treat the use of space. To summarise, what the treaty states is that space should be available for use of all of mankind, which does go against SpaceX claim to make their own laws. On the other hand, in the treaty there is no section on enforcement or punishment.
If you want more information on this treaty and others like it, I recommend this YouTube video by ESA, European Space Agency. I also recommend their channel for other space facts.
On the other side of treaty and laws some countries have decided to go their own way on making laws on the domain of space. An example of a country making laws is the USA saying all profits made in space are assets of the public or private organizations and will be treated as if they were made in the USA if a company headquarters is placed in their country.
In the end even though we as a race have tried to lay out laws for the future but we will not know what laws will matter until we have gone and actually lived in space. Even then, it is most likely that laws will be made based on what benefits the people and organizations in space rather than governments on earth, at least in my own opinion.
Title Photo by SpaceX at Unspalsh.com