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Space Colonization: The Biggest Challenge for Space Laws

Space laws are one of the most sophisticated and under-developed international laws. These laws cover the various aspects of the vast unexplored outer space and hence are very dynamic and needs a regular update. The space laws needs to go hand-in-hand with the human scientific and astronomical progress. This fact made it very difficult for the legislatures and jurists to maintain these laws as per the contemporary space requirements.

One such example of this aspect is the modern space colonization programmes. The laws regarding the space colonization are still lingering in the grey zone suffering with a lot of uncertainties. The problems of drafting and enacting such laws are endless. Some of such problems are to make the different countries of the world to come together and cooperate in making these laws, the uncertainty regarding the private sector space explorations, the creation of such provisions and checks and balances so as to enforce these laws effectively. All these matters need to be dealt with utmost attention and after researching and considering all the future ramifications and consequences in full depth and detail. For making these laws International bodies like United Nation should come together to enact a proper legislation.


The Moon Treaty that was ratified in 1967 by 17 countries. This treaty clearly states that no nations can own any part of moon. This in legal term mean that the moon doesn’t belong to any of the country of the world i.e. a moon is a fully independent nation of its own. As no people reside there, a new question arises that who will make laws in the future colonies of the moon, the nation that will sponsor the colony, the international community or the people reached to moon to settle the colonies. Definitely, this identification of law makers will involve lot of hardships, dissent and conflicts until any meaningful agreement can be reached.


The second most relevant question is that, even if the laws are drafted properly, how these laws will be enforced. The Outer Space Treaty of 1967, states that the wrongful act of person needs to be governed under the rules and laws of their origin country. But is seems to be very unrealistic, as how the people of Mars or even Moon colonies can be judged in earth’s court or be imprisoned in the earth’s jails or can be investigated by the earth’s people because of such massive distances of these colonies from the earth. The only way is to set up the personal dispute resolution mechanism of the colony. This adds to the complexity of the mission of space colonization as each and every wing of law enforcement will be needed to be established there to run the colony properly.


A next very troublesome question in space colonization is the matter of private sector settlements in outer space. Some examples of such private sector space explorations is that of Elon Musk lead Space-X trying to get on Mar or the Jeff Bezos led Blue Origin’s Moon colonization plan. The point here is that in case of private sector settlements the governance will really be difficult. The private missions can include the complex mixture of people that are native from different countries of the world.

Now, if the laws of any particular nation are applied on all the people of the colonization mission then it will cause difficulties and dissent in people as they are from different governances [like the Communist Governance, Democratic Governance, Democratic-Socialist Governance etc]. If the different laws were made to govern different people then it would lead to the unnecessary sophistication and difficulties for the people.


The problems associated with the journey of space settlement are not only limited to the early stages of the mission but will continue to occur in the subsequent future. One such problem is demand for the separate, sovereign government for the settlement. It is obvious from the history of the development of human civilizations that at some point as the outer space colony become advance and self sufficient; it will naturally demand the formation of their separate, sovereign government. This can lead to the unwanted conflicts and struggles that can resemble the early bitter anti-colonialism movements around the world in the periods of 1950-90s. Even though this problem is more futuristic but is inevitable and needs to be considered at present or at later stages.


The colonies in outer space have the greatest probability of success if the missions are launched with the international co-operation. The problem in such co-operation is that the government of such colony will be of what kind and form? For instance the communist country like the China or Russia will force the colony to be communist and the Democratic country like the USA or European Union will force it to be a democratic. This can become another bone of contention which can delay the outer space colonies development.


With development in astronomy, the colonization on celestial bodies will not only limited to one or two countries but will gradually become a common trend. This will surely lead to the conflict of interests regarding the resources, governance etc and not to say can cause conflicts and wars in the outer space which can jeopardise the whole the astronomical progress of the mankind. If the colonies are developed on the basis of the country then the tension and conflict between two countries on earth can result in the conflict of colonies on the other planets like Mars or the natural satellites like Moon. This can also create an ugly situation for the newly established human civilization. For this the proper laws are needed which still needs to see the light of the day.


The settlement of outer space colonies is like writing the human history again but this time we doesn’t need to progress from the barbarian and animal state instead, this time we have the experience of the thousands of years of human progress in all the areas be it scientific, political, social, economic or medical. The only point that we need to keep in mind is that we should not repeat the same mistakes as done by us in our history. Instead of this, we should use our past knowledge, experience and gained capabilities for the common good of the mankind as a whole.


1. Kovic Marko, “We urgently need a legal framework for space colonization”, aeon, (04/dec/2018), https://aeon.co/essays/we-urgently-need-a-legal-framework-for-space-colonisation, last visited- 26th July.

2. “How will space law work when we begin to colonize planets”, Open Access Government, (17/April/2019), https://www.openaccessgovernment.org/space-law/63526/, last visited-27th July.

3. “Space Law Treaties and Principles”, UNITED NATIONS Office for Outer Space Affairs, https://www.unoosa.org/oosa/en/ourwork/spacelaw/treaties.html, last visited- 27th July.


This blog has been authored by Ratnesh Dixit who is a 2nd Year B.A., LL.B. (Hons.) student at Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Patiala.


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