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Space Law: The Final Legal Frontier?

March 04, 2010


Do you feel like there just aren’t enough legal topics on the planet? Are you interested in being a legal pioneer, boldly legislating where few have dared to before?  Then “Space Law” may be right the fit you.  

Space Law deals with legal issues surrounding extra-planetary activities. As space travel becomes more common (e.g., Virgin Galactic) with an increasing number of countries and stakeholders interested in orbital and interstellar expeditions, there is a growing community of scholars interested in laying out a legal framework that extends beyond the planet’s surface. There are several intriguing questions that arise when considering Space Law.  Where does space begin and end?  Can a country or organization “own” an area of space?  What entities should decide and govern space?
A recent scholarly work that considers some of these questions is the article, A Legal Regime for the Mining of Helium-3 on the Moon: U.S. Policy Options, by Richard Bilder of the University of Wisconsin Law School. Bilder explores the legality of mining resources on the moon and the feasibility of an “international legal regime” to govern such endeavors.
There are several resources available to learn more about Space Law. Three international organizations that deal with the topic are the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), the European Centre for Space Law (ECSL), and the International Institute of Space Law (IISL). Several universities have institutes that focus on Space Law: McGill Institute of Air and Space Law, University of Cologne Institute of Air and Space Law, Leiden International Institute of Air and Space Law
One of the few scholarly journals available on the topic is the Journal of Space Law published by the National Center for Remote Sensing, Air and Space Law at the University of Mississippi Law School (where they graduated their first “space lawyer” in 2008). There is even a moot court competition focused solely on issues surrounding Space Law: the Manfred Lachs Space Law Moot Court Competition. To keep up-to-date on Space Law news, try following these blogs: Space Law Probe and the ABA Forum Committee on Air & Space Law Online Blog.