When we think about space travel, very few of us ever consider the need for Martian law. There were six people who returned recently from an 8 month long isolation period in order to test the endurance of humans for future long term missions in space. This “journey to Mars” exercise required that the participants reside in isolation in Hawaii – right below the summit of the largest active volcano in the world. The test was created to gain a better understanding of psychological effects from manned missions.
Preparing for Mars Missions
NASA, who hopes to be sending expeditions to the planet Mars by the 2030s, is planning to use results from tests like these to help in the selection of crew members for these future missions. And of course, NASA is not the only one looking to Mars. Millionaire Elon Musk and also Lockheed Martin have both expressed intention of separate Mars missions sometime between the years 2022 and 2028.
So now the conversation is starting to turn toward what laws would govern humans on the planet Mars because survival would obviously be a priority for any mission there. As an afterthought, this could very well be an issue that these isolation experiments could also test.
Settled Law on Space Stations
In the past, the laws within space has supported a position that stations and objects which are placed on celestial bodies will remain under the ownership of the nation who put them there. Thus, private companies and also entrepreneurs are not allowed to have dominion over or mine any of these bodies for natural resources unless they are acting lawfully through a sovereign state.
Existing rules state that the creation and construction of any space station along with the structures needed for its existence must notify the Secretary-General of the United Nations. Afterwards, these structures would operate under the jurisdiction of the nation where the spacecraft was registered or the nation who delivered the components to the station.
Most people agree that this is logical and makes perfect sense. It would be difficult to have a permanent space station located on Mars operate without some set of laws from the ground. The same thing could be said for structures required for its daily maintenance. The closet such example in existence today are the stations in Antarctica.
While what we have discussed so far seems logical, there are certain parts of the law that needs updating. As the construction and the number of Martian space stations increase, there is also a new liability for the possibility of debris to damage Martian properties or even kill people who live on the planet. So the question becomes which laws are needed to govern these kinds of incidents?
Martian Property Rights and Crime
As activities on Mars increases, more questions will arise in regards to what corporations and states are allowed to do these Martian colonies. Will they have exclusive dominion over the inhabitants of the colony? Or would there be another entity devoted to enforcing the laws there?
And there is also the topic of manufacturing in space. Along with that come new discoveries and materials. What laws will govern the patents and the commercialization of these new products? And then there are the inevitable mining operations – which require all sorts of laws regarding patents, restrictions and even safety for the workers.
Many experts fear the law will be ignored in the early stages. This could diminish the enthusiasm of anyone wishing to volunteer for future mission.
There is also the line of thinking that recognizes the commander of a given space station as having exclusive power – much similar to the laws given to a ship’s captain his or her powers. Regardless how the affected parties feel, there is certainly a need for Martian law.