Astrolaw: Carrying Human Rights into Outer Space

Article excerpt

Human movement into space offers one of those rare opportunities in history to break the endless cycles of economic imperialism, colonialism, denial of basic human rights, and the subsequent violent confrontations that inevitably follow. But there is a notable absence of carefully crafted assertions of basic human rights and freedoms in outer space.

Lawyers and jurists already have 'invaded" outer space, dragging along with them both traditional laws of commerce and the rather exotic treaties spelling out basic rules for using and occupying space. But these pursuits only extend familiar principles of Earth laws into the realm of space. Nowhere, in all of these domestic laws and international treaties, is there a definitive embracing of human rights and freedoms in space. Nowhere is the 'spacelaw' or 'astrolaw' guardianship role of these rights and freedoms specifically stated. And nowhere in this new body of law is there a clear recognition of the need for principles of social order in a truly unique physical and psychological environment.

Space is not just another place.- As an arena for ongoing human evolution, space has not generated enough interest thus far to ensure that our astronaut/ cosmonaut settlers and envoys of humankind will carry such individual and social values with them as the freedom of speech, peaceable assembly, and the right to petition the government for redress of a grievance. These principles must not rest on inferences alone, or they will never find their rightful place in the continuing human odyssey into space.

Several years ago, a project was undertaken through the Smithsonian Institution's National Air & Space Museum to attempt to formulate a "Declaration of First Principles for the Governance of Outer Space Societies." The participants who were selected for the project represented a broad array of disciplines and interests, including engineering, biomedicine, law, economics, sociology, psychology, bioethics, and philosophy. Rather than attempting to frame an actual constitution for space societies, which normally would be reserved for sovereign governments, the group's purpose was to put together a declaration that would help governmental authorities responsible for space policy to remain aware of the fundamental rights and freedoms of people who live in space. …


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