Arguably, the majority of books on space law come across as somewhat turgid and repetitive treatises for the legally-educated cognoscenti. However, the Elgar ‘Advanced Introduction’ series is designed to provide “stimulating and thoughtful introductions” to key topics in the social sciences and law; this one, written by a leading international authority, is on space law.
The author begins by quoting a headline from the New York Times that declared, “Wherever You Go, the Taxman Goes” and repurposing it as “wherever humans go, the law follows”, which is a neat way to introduce his subject. He quickly admits, however, that “on closer look… the issue is a bit more complicated”.
Having mentioned the main space law treaties, the author introduces a novel schematic which organises the structure of space law, and the contents of the book, into three concentric circles and a ‘bulls-eye’. In brief, the outer circle covers national laws with some bearing on space; the second covers international law not majoring in space; the third includes some laws exclusively related to space; and the ‘bulls-eye’ covers international law “exclusively and comprehensively space”. Given that legal issues are often decided on a parochial basis, this national-international distinction is an important one for students to appreciate.
Although the book is aimed at students of space law, it is small and concise enough to be of interest to the broader space profession. It is, however, no ‘idiot’s guide’ and comes complete with footnote references (as beloved by lawyers), a bibliography and an index. In a short section on the future of space law, the author recommends that space lawyers should “continue to follow developments in the technical, operational, political and commercial realms” to make sure that space law does not “lag behind too far”. Sage advice indeed; and by the same token anyone engaged in the development of space should have an eye on the legal regime. This little book should be one for them.