Books on space law are not on everyone’s wish list but the editor of this substantial tome makes a very good case for its existence with his ‘why’, ‘what’ and ‘how’ analysis of its contents. Put succinctly, most of the key reference sources in space law are getting a bit long in the tooth and, while the topic originally applied almost exclusively to governments, it is fast becoming relevant to commercial enterprises and individuals. Topics such as asteroid mining, lunar exploration and space tourism have seen to that.
Rusty Schweickart, Apollo 9 astronaut and co-founder of the B612 Foundation (a group with interests in defending Earth from asteroid impacts), makes an entertaining observation in his foreword. “As an astronaut I never expected to be interested in, let alone involved in, space law,” he admits. “But that was back when I was the payload and not the purveyor” (he cites responsibilities in remote sensing and, later, asteroid deflection). Schweickart reveals that “in homage to the collection of nations” that made his 1969 flight possible, he took “copies of the Outer Space Treaty, the UN Declaration of Human Rights and (a bit more self-serving) the Return of Astronauts (‘Rescue’) Agreement” with him on his mission. He now has a better appreciation of the work that went into them, he says.
The book itself is divided into 19 multi-author chapters covering everything from the history of space law and its international organisational aspects to specific topics such as launch services, satellite communications and insurance. There is also coverage of trade, financing, property rights and the environmental aspects of space activities – in other words, something for everyone interested in space law. The massive index – at more than 50 pages – is a small book in itself! Of course, the price of the volume is likely to restrict sales to institutional purchasers but if you need a handbook of space law fit for the early 21st century, this has to be the one.