Issue #2(24) 2020 Security

Interplanetary spaceflight and restorative justice

A common objection to restorative justice is that without reference to external notions of proportionality, stakeholders could pursue excessively punitive responses.
A common objection to restorative justice is that without reference to external notions of proportionality, stakeholders could pursue excessively punitive responses.
Elizabeth Tiarks Northumbria University, UK

A common objection to restorative justice is that without reference to external notions of proportionality, stakeholders could pursue excessively punitive responses. In other words, crews on long-duration missions could end up developing their own ‘ad hoc’ legal system, much like the apocryphal ‘wild west’ sheriff.

As many members of the space community have suggested, there is a need for the development of a robust conflict resolution system for long-duration interplanetary human spaceflight missions. Well-functioning relationships amongst crew members are vital for a successful mission – to the Moon, Mars or anywhere else. However, while pre-flight measures to minimise conflict such as careful crew selection are possible, the unpredictable and pioneering nature of interplanetary spaceflight means that it is difficult to foresee and eliminate conflict entirely.

Analogue studies which seek to assess the psychological impact on humans of travel to Mars have shown varying levels of conflict, sometimes of a serious nature. For example, during the SFINCCS ‘99 study (an experiment simulating long-duration missions on the International Space Station (ISS) featuring crews of ‘astronauts’ from different countries), there was an allegation of sexual assault and a vicious fight between participants.

Conflict on a long-duration spaceflight, where crew members from different backgrounds and cultures live in close quarters for an extended period of time, could reduce their effectiveness or even completely destabilise the mission. So it is important that measures are put in place to resolve conflicts where they arise.

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