The Space Tourism: Legal Standards

Two watershed events paved the way for the modern exploration of space. Sputnik’s successful launch in 1957 and Gagarin’s first human space exploration in 1961 represented the most iconic endeavors into the perfect void (Davidian, 2020). Space tourism is often praised as bringing a breakthrough in human access to the contentious and, in theory, limitless world of space. Consequently, this has already sparked major debates about the existing state of the law of space tourism and how it might reform to accommodate such revolutionary advances. The applicability of criminal law and other space laws such as the liability convention is usually outweighed considering the fact that “space” is not subject to claims of any national sovereignty. Therefore, active nationality systems may not apply within the space territories, creating a gap in the legal processes when space tourists commit a crime. Therefore, the space tourism legal standards, legal issues, reflection on the risk of incapacity and death from space travel and relation to life experiences are elaborated.

Legal Standards

The Outer space Treaty

The Outer Space Treaty was a law passed by the general assembly as legal guidance on the principles and activities accepted in the visitation and use of the space. This treaty was opened by a common agreement between the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States of America in 1966 (Lyal & Larsen, 2017). The advent of space tourism, space militarization, commercials and leisure activities promoted the need to set specific guidelines to maintain law and order. It provides the foundational laws that ensure the protection and management of the various activities within that realm. One of the rules is that tourists will do visitation and study to benefit the interests of all the countries and for knowledge of the society. Another principle is that everyone can be allowed to explore the space, meaning that it is not subject to any national appropriation. This factor now brings the issue of “res communis”, meaning that no one has authority over the space since everyone has equal rights (Davidian, 2020). Therefore, no state laws can apply within that area, creating significant limitations to implementing the rule of law.

Another outer space treaty’s principle is that no state shall place any nuclear weapon capable of mass destruction within its bodies or station them in its vicinity. Another consideration is that all states shall be liable for any damage, crimes, and contamination within the space (García, 2019). Outer Space Treaty provides the most important principles when penalizing crimes occurring within that environment. In general, nations are mandated to oversee activities in that environment and ensure that irresponsible behaviors are penalized according to the law.

The Rescue Agreement

This principle was devised to ensure the safety of every astronaut or explorer in space. The rule requires states to ensure rescuers and assistance respondents are ready to help tourists exploring the area. It authorizes countries to assist and promptly return distressed astronauts to the launching state if they are unable or afraid to continue with the process for security (Gleason, 2021). Other states can assist with launching any space objects and returning them to earth outside the launching state upon request. This action will ensure that the rescue operations are safe and successful, promoting space tourism. Outer Space Treaty provides the most important principles when penalizing crimes occurring within that environment. In general, the treaty states that outer space exploration and utilization must be free, in the interests of all countries, and not subject to any claims of national sovereignty.

The Liability Convention

This rule requires every state to be responsible for tourist activities when exploring the space. The convention provides that a launching nation shall be responsible for destructions caused by an object launched from space to earth that brings any form of damage. Various procedures are highlighted under this rule that helps settle disputes for damages accrued based on the launching of space objects.

Registration Convention

This statute was signed into law to assist in identifying space objects. The 1975 Registration Convention’s principal focus is establishing integrity in space tourism. This goal is inspired by the assumption that a critical verification system would help support the authentication of celestial objects sent into space (Gleason, 2021). As a result, the implementation and evolution of universal principles governing the study and use of spacecraft would be aided. The United Nations Register of Space Objects receives the required information from the Signatory States. However, the data supplied is frequently so generalized that it’s not always as useful in promoting transparency as the convention’s drafters had planned.

The Moon Agreement

The Moon Agreement adds to the Outer Space Convention by confirming the denuclearization of the Moon and other celestial bodies. The law forbids any other aggressive action or damage or violating action on the Moon, meaning that exploration should be for peace -purposes (Johnson-Freese & Burbach, 2019). It forbids any military attack that presents a risk to the earth, the Natural satellite, spaceflight, space probe people, or artificial celestial phenomena. Furthermore, member Nations must not install nuclear weapons or other nuclear arms in orbit on any other route to or near the Moon.

Legal Issues

One of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s astronauts was suspected of illegally gaining access to her wife’s bank during her stay on the multinational space station. The organization examines what is deemed the only crime ever committed in space. Although investigators have yet to determine whether the incident was a crime, this does raise concerns regarding how the state should approach criminal conduct in space in the future. This crime can be categorized as “fraud” and identity theft (Martinez et al., 2019). However, the question arises whether any of the laws apply to this case or if the courts can use the criminal law to settle such matters. Astronaut Anne McClain denied this accusation sweeping off balance the strength of any legal considerations to apply to any allegations.

The liability convention mandates the state to punish any crime committed when tourists are within the space. However, this contradicts the initial declaration that the space is a free slate where only the five rules apply. This rationale indicates that when examined under the lenses of the five international auto space rules, her crime is not categorized as an offence since they have not done any illegal activities that may endanger the space (Moltz, 2019). However, this action is a crime within the national jurisdiction, creating a disconnection of whether this crime is punishable by international or federal laws.

When two astronauts from different countries commit a crime, the various states must consult with one another and figure out the best laws. The reason is that while the crime may be similar, the penalty code may not be the same, leading to unbalanced sanctions, which goes against the fairness of the international sanction laws. However, the international law still applies, considering that it provides the states with three months to decide or make a sanction for the crimes committed (GarcĂ­a, 2019). If this process is delayed past the set time, the international law applies accordingly as the jurisdiction follows. The issue arises when the crimes committed are not listed within the set regulations meaning that its provisions are not guaranteed.

Another issue presented with the space tourism laws is the issue of the boundary of space. The earth’s atmosphere does not have any solid boundaries, making it difficult to determine whether the space laws of air laws should apply in a given situation or if the space-bound crafts could violate another country’s air space. This problem has created an imbalance in what laws are considered air or space laws. Additionally, tourists to space fly at their own risk considering the fact that federal agencies are not regulating the flights. This freedom has been given to companies to initiate innovation into space before they can stipulate any other rules.

There are no safety rules declaring liability in the state or international agencies for any injuries or death occurring within that environment since many tourists are still considered “experiment specimens”. This factor indicates that space travel is an individual responsibility (Martinez et al., 2019). There is no specific guarantee for safety, considering not so much has been discovered, and the environment can be susceptible to unprecedented occurrences.


Discussion of Standards and Reflection

Space tourism could be for entertainment, exploration or business purposes. The different types of space tourism are governed by the orbital, suborbital and lunar space tourism. However, the rules apply succinctly to all crimes committed within that place without differentiation, whether in space or air (GarcĂ­a, 2019). I have learned that these laws are not comprehensive in addressing all the crimes that could occur within a specific setup. In addition, space laws pose challenging questions about the applicability of these statutes in real-life situations such as death, incapacity or effects of testamentary instruments.

In case of death in commercial spacecraft, who is liable? Should it be the government, craft manufacturer, travelling agency or the astronaut? All of these pose a threat to the viability of the set rules for specific issues. I have realized that the risk of incapacity in space tourism is almost inevitable (Davidian, 2020). Therefore, some policies help protect an individual from any outcomes, such as a power of attorney. This agreement enables the appointment of enduring guardianship over financial and other legal affairs.

The document contains instructions that can be used to permit care for pain and how each of the signee’s properties is to be divided. This requirement proves that the risk of death in space travel is significant. Therefore other legal issues that may arise from this setup may include proof of death and burial procedures (Gleason, 2021). How can death in space be proven if the body is not found or is not ferried to earth after a long time? When such happens, does the government provide the family with a death certificate bearing in mind that the person could be alive since they may have landed at the wrong destination? All these questions indicate that the legal system or statutes set are still not comprehensive to cover all the needs or situations that may arise.

Another situation is whether burial in space can be permitted, especially when rescuers cannot bring the body back to earth. Can ashes be spread out as a possible strategy for burial, or it will be considered contamination of this environment. This idea is based on the fact that space tourism may be as risky as death itself, and therefore, rules should cover all aspects without leaving loopholes that bring legal issues. These issues reminded me of a case in 1986 when a space shuttle blew up a few seconds after it was launched into space (Von der Dunk, 2019). Seven members on board lost their lives, and it was due to the failure of a sealant ring. The worst part is that the incident was broadcasted live, and millions of children saw the tragic event happening. These issues make me doubt the relevance of the principles set and their capacity to protect the people and tourists.

Management and Suggestions

Space tourism legal issues pose a significant threat for justice to prevail. There are issues not addressed within the rules stipulated which makes it difficult for criminals to be sanctioned. The reason is that governance in outer space is problematic since the traditional norms of state sovereignty are not applicable, making it hard to punish offenders.

Additionally, Congress passed the fundamental legal frameworks for space laws during the onset of the cold war, which means that some of the treaties were not implemented by the United Nations. For instance, the moon agreement does not apply to most countries, such as the frontier members of the UN Security Council, including the US and UK (Moltz, 2019). Policymakers can manage this menace by first revising the initial agreement to ensure it applies to all members involved. Immediately divisive politics are strengthened, and proper management becomes impossible due to the different ideologies. Therefore, the laws should apply to everyone, including members and non-members of the UN council.

Another consideration is for the laws to be strengthened by either adding more clauses so that all the legal issues presented are covered. This strategy will ensure that conformity to the space laws is enhanced, and nations will have a clear strategy to punish or follow up issues such as death processes (Lyall & Larsen, 2017). Additionally, a council should be elected to oversee new developments and create laws that fit each identified innovation to cover everything. This strategy will require consistent study and analysis to ensure that updated rules are at par with the developments.

Space tourism is among the most innovative but life-threatening systems of travel. Therefore, various laws were implemented to govern operations in that environment, known as the outer space treaty. However, principles are limited in addressing existing and modern challenges, indicating a need for an improved management system. Therefore, various improvements can be made, such as creating a governing body to restructure and revise the statutes to meet the digital world’s needs and ensure that the appropriate punishment is levied if any crimes are committed. The rules should apply to everyone to ensure that everyone touring the space is governed by the same rules for easier implementation or rules and governance.


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GarcĂ­a, D. M. R. (2019). Out-of-state Solutions for Outer Space Disputes: Delocalizing the Troubles of the Province of Mankind. Air and Space Law, 44(4/5).

Gleason, L. (2021). Law in the Final Frontier: Ambiguities and Clarity in the Legal Regime of Outer Space. Bellarmine Law Society Review, 11(2).

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Martinez, P., Jankowitsch, P., Schrogl, K. U., Di Pippo, S., & Okumura, Y. (2019). Reflections on the 50th anniversary of the outer space treaty, UNISPACE+ 50, and prospects for the future of global space governance. Space Policy, 47, 28-33.

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Von der Dunk, F.G. (2019). The Regulation of Space Tourism. Space Tourism (25) 177-199.

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