The MARS Obsession

The MARS Obsession

The National Geographic series on MARS aired a few nights ago – I tuned in to see what the fuss was about.  I’m not going to write a detailed blog on the first episode, instead – let’s write about the legalities of space exploration.

I’m sure, somewhere far behind the scenes, are people and policies in the works to find answers to questions; what rule of law will be applied to Mars? Will it be craved up into sovereign territories?  It’s exciting – the thought of leaving Earth, but do we drag our baggage of legislative practices and principles with us?

Well – I found some “guiding principles” from the United Nations: ‘Declaration of Legal Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space:’

  1. The exploration and use of outer space shall be carried on for the benefit and in the interests of all mankind.
  2. Outer space and celestial bodies are free for exploration and use by all States on a basis of equality and in accordance with international law.
  3. Outer space and celestial bodies are not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means.
  4. The activities of States in the exploration and use of outer space shall be carried on in accordance with international law, including the Charter of the United Nations, in the interest of maintaining international peace and security and promoting international co-operation and understanding. (Source: United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs. Retrieved from

So there you have it – international law governs space, space exploration, mutual cooperation, the conduct of astronauts and States.  However, we’ll have to wait and see how effective international law is, when humanity is forced to negotiate right of self-determination and territorial integrity on MARS.  In the meanwhile, it’s already a great series.  Thank you Ron Howard.


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