05 November 2015 News

Colonizing Mars – the legal way

Humanity’s designs on Mars continue to grow and expand – but some legal experts have words of caution.

NASA, for example, released this month a detailed and fascinating plan on the next steps that it says must be undertaken on our journey to Mars.

And NASA isn’t the only one with plans to put humans on the Red Planet. SpaceX, Inspiration Mars Foundation, and Mars One have all expressed this aim.

Still, experts point out that a number of legal ambiguities must be resolved before the first human being sets foot on Mars – let alone colonizes it.

As Sarah Burns and Jacob Haqq-Misra write in the Guardian, “The absolute restriction on sovereign claims by the non-appropriation principle [in the Outer Space Treaty of 1967] could lead to future conflict.”

How to work to resolve this? Well, as Burns and Haqq-Misra rightly point out, dialogue on the issue must begin on an international level. “The current state of affairs is too ambiguous,” they caution.

In general space legislation has had a hard time catching up to progress in recent decades. ROOM authors have already argued for a new regulatory framework concerning New Space, as well as adoption of a new space ethics as far as the environment is concerned.

Mars is yet another example of how humanity must get its laws in order before it can march onward.

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