Saturday, December 8, 2018

We Urgently Need a Legal Framework for Space Colonisation

Season 2 of National Geographic Channel's MARS TV series prominently features space colonization governance challenges and how those might complicate the exploration and exploitation of other worlds.

So, this article by Marko Kovic comes at a convenient time for those of us who are watching MARS. Kovic discusses four significant challenges that humankind will face in various stages of our settlement and occupation beyond low Earth orbit. Below are a few excerpts. 

Source: Aeon

There is no meaningful space-colonisation governance framework to speak of. As of now, in 2018, space colonisation is a veritable free-for-all.

From a conceptual, birds-eye view, however, possible space-colonisation governance problems fall into one of four general categories.

First, we need to answer a deceptively simple question: who is allowed to engage in colonisation activities? 

when one or several colonies become truly sustainable, a third question emerges: what do we do with colonies that want to secede and become independent? 

Finally, we will need an answer to the fourth question: how exactly should different independent human habitats such as Earth, Mars, Venus or others interact with one another?

In theory, the first question, regarding who is allowed to engage in space colonisation, is addressed in the Outer Space Treaty from 1967

it is more of a symbolic agreement than a detailed governance structure. It does not really solve the problem of who is allowed to engage in space colonisation.

The second challenge, the problem of governance within early colonies, is also touched upon by the Outer Space Treaty. The jurisdiction of any spacecraft and any personnel on that spacecraft, the treaty stipulates, is the jurisdiction of the spacecraft’s and/or the personnel’s country of origin.

Elon Musk, the founder and CEO of SpaceX, has proposed direct democracy as the governance system for a future Mars colony in which all colonists directly exert law-making power instead of appointing representatives in legislative bodies.

should early colonies move in the other direction by adopting some kind of authoritarian framework in order to simply get things done? 

Governance within early colonies should, ideally, find a middle ground between sound democratic decision making and technocratic expertise and analysis

The third challenge of colonisation governance, the problem of secession and independence, could prove to be a crucial juncture in the future of humankind. 

The fourth and quite possibly biggest governance challenge of space colonisation arises: the problem of pan- human governance. 

A good approach might be to continue using the system that we currently have, and try to expand it in order to incorporate the new layer of extraterrestrial expansion. 

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