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Michael Listner, Sunday, 12-1-13 December 1, 2013

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Michael Listner, Sunday, 12-1-13


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Guest:  Michael Listner.  Topics:  Space law Review for 2013.  Please direct all comments and questions regarding Space Show programs/guest(s) to the Space Show blog, https://thespaceshow.wordpress.com.  Comments and questions should be relevant to the specific Space Show program. Written Transcripts of Space Show programs are a violation of our copyright and are not permitted without prior written consent, even if for your own use. We do not permit the commercial use of Space Show programs or any part thereof, nor do we permit editing, YouTube clips, or clips placed on other private channels & websites. Space Show programs can be quoted, but the quote must be cited or referenced using the proper citation format. Contact The Space Show for further information. In addition, please remember that your Amazon purchases can help support The Space Show/OGLF. See www.onegiantleapfoundation.org/amazon.htm.

We welcomed Michael Listner back to the program for this space law review for 2013.  On The Space Show blog at the end of the summary, you will find two presentations uploaded at Michael’s request.  In the first segment of this 1 hour 57 minute discussion, Michael said it was a fruitful year for space law and policy.  He suggested that the paradigm changer was private space development, at both the state and the federal legal picture.  He talked much about the Outer Space Treaty (OST) which provides the legal basis for the U.S. to exercise control over its citizens launching anything to space anywhere in the world.  This subject came up in reference to Mars One and some statements Michael made regarding there wanting to go elsewhere to avoid Dutch law.  Michael explained how the OST presents the Dutch government with the same obligation for its citizens around the world as is the case with the U.S.  Michael then brought us current with the European Code of Conduct, current modifications, and the impact it might have on U.S. space entrepreneurs and launchers such as SpaceX.  He talked about how regulations get enforced as law & how they would make the voluntary code legally binding in our country.  We talked about the need to get an FAA launch license for private companies and how that might be unavailable depending on regulations and political issues.  For a government mission, there is no launch license requirement.  This point was stressed when using SLS for Inspiration Mars came up for discussion.

In the second segment (note we had a phone interruption so there was a short additional break though most of it was edited out), there were several email questions and comments regarding Tito’s recent Inspiration Mars congressional testimony and what it might mean for space law issues if the mission became a NASA project.  Allen asked a question about state law, specifically in California.  Michael explained the relationship between state and federal law in space matters.  During the discussion, Michael referenced many papers by different authors applicable to our discussion. Here are the links to those papers:  Henry Hertzfeld & Scott Pace: http://science.time.com/2013/11/28/hands-off-our-lunar-landing-sites-not-so-fast; National Space Transportation Policy:
www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/national_space_transportation_policy_11212013.pdf; Established Practices for Human Spaceflight Occupant Safety www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/national_space_transportation_policy_11212013.pdf; Space Review article on commercial spaceflight self-regulation: www.thespacereview.com/article/2252/1; FAA decision: www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2013-12-02/html/2013-28405.htm.  Our guest talked about these items during both segments of our show, stressing the geopolitical component.  Near the end of the program, we talked about laws to protect the lunar Apollo landing sites and artifacts.  In his concluding remarks, our guest stressed the need to play by the rules.  Such rules may consist of state, federal, and international laws and regulations. Michael also talked about Bigelow Aerospace and his lunar cots like program suggested with NASA.

If you have questions/comments for Michael, post them on The Space Show blog. You can reach Michael through his website at www.spacelawsolutions.com.

Relationship of space law with traditional law



1. Robert Walker - January 3, 2014

Just adding this so I get notified of follow up posts, forgot to check the boxes.

2. Robert Walker - January 3, 2014

Hi Michael, I was really interested in your spaceshow. Am no lawyer myself, am a mathematician but have read a few of the papers on the legal situation and in view of all the legal complexities they raise often decades long processes to go through, have often been surprised at how the space entrepreneurs often treat the OST and other legal issues so lightly as if they are hardly much harder to deal with than a driving license.

I’ve done my best to write about this when I have the opportunity and have several articles on my science20.com blog about the issue.

legal section half way down the page here
and an article trying to draw attention to the immense legal complexities of a Mars sample return

I was interested in your remarks about the OST that even if a US citizen launches from a launch site in another country, the US is still responsible for making sure that its citizens uphold the OST. Hard to imagine e.g. Elon Musk wanting to surrender his US citizenship and become a citizen of one of the very few non signatories of the OST to launch his mission for instance.

One thing you didn’t say much about though, was about what other countries have to say in such a situation. For instance, I’m a citizen of the UK not the US. As you’ll find if you read my articles, I am especially concerned about the issues of human colonization introducing materials (DNA, amino acids and dead microbes) to confuse future scientific studies of Mars and most of all – given increasing evidence of potential habitats on Mars and also of micro-organisms and lichens some maybe even able to survive unprotected on the surface using just the high night time humidity – the warm seasonal flows even in equatorial regions etc etc – seems to me greatly increased chance of contaminating Mars after a human mission to surface – quite possibly irreversibly with life forms that start to reproduce on Mars.

So, it seems to me that under the OST, that if the US, or the Netherlands or any other country for that matter were to seriously plan to send humans to the Mars surface, that I must surely have legal grounds to challenge it even though I am not a citizen of the same country. I could lobby the UK government and the European Union to stop the launch – on the grounds that it harms the scientific interest of our own future missions. For instance exomars will have the ability to detect just a few molecules in a sample as biosignatures and surely we will build on this to send future more versatile and more sensitive experiments to study past life on Mars and any present day life. It would make those experiments useless if life started to reproduce on Mars from human settlements.

Also this process could happen really quickly. Carl Sagan once calculated that a single microbe reproducing just once a month could create as many microbes as there are in a typical Earth soil within ten years unless limited by the conditions. Of course would be limited on Mars, but still, a single microbe introduced to some widespread habitat on Mars could contaminate that entire habitat within a decade similarly. It might take longer, some micro-organisms in similar conditions to some of those on Mars have lifetimes of millennia in Antarctica, but it might happen really quickly, as we really don’t know what conditions are like on Mars in enough detail.

So legally not just talking about something that might happen over thousands of years or centuries. It might happen within a decade of the landing that Mars is ruined for many of the more delicate scientific studies we want to do for early Mars and possible present day life on Mars.

Within the vicinity of the landing, then it would be instantly ruined even if life doesn’t reproduce, that the dead microbes and other fragments of DNA spread in the dust – e.g. if a human party landed in Gale crater then from then on any DNA or amino acid found in Gale crater would surely be treated with suspicion as probably originating from the human party when looking for small trace amounts of them.

To me this seems like it should lead to a pretty strong legal case under the OST if e.g. Europe or Russia or China or India or even the non space powers also, they too have an interest because they might send micro-satellites or micro-rovers piggy-backing on the other missions in the not too distant future or eventually send their own missions. Seems to me just about any country, especially when you take micro-satellites and rovers into account, could put up a good case that it is potentially harming their scientific interests in Mars under the OST.

Is that right? How does that work out legally. I’d be interested in any thoughts about all that.

Personally I’m really keen for Mars to be explored as I think it may be of great interest for biology and life sciences and evolution.

But am only interested in that if it can be done responsibly, don’t see the point at all in exploring it in a way that has possibly a high chance of destroying much of its scientific interest or makes it harder to study for scientists. Mars seems to me to be currently of little value for colonization with many other targets e.g. moon or space habitats close to Earth far better without the risks of contamination.

As for a second home for humans, will be centuries surely before Mars could be such a place if it can at all, meanwhile Earth is by far the best place for humans even immediately after an impact by giant meteorites, in near future, maybe decades down the way space or lunar self sufficient habitats but no way a terraformed Mars could be of any interest in that way for at least some centuries and probably for millennia until then not much to offer over other places – so what’s the hurry.

So for all those reasons I’d certainly be doing what I could to stop a mission to the Mars surface if one was seriously proposed, without first answering all the planetary protection issues involved – not just in a speculative way but in a fully worked out way with hard ground truth from the surface of Mars to back it up – and wonder what the legal situation would be, and how effective such actions by other parties under the OST would be.

Of course hope that situation never arises, as they do all want to keep to the planetary protection and OST in their public statements so far. I think they just don’t realise quite how hard it would be to fulfill those requirements.

Michael Listner - January 9, 2014

You raise some interesting questions that indeed need to be addressed. I read through your article and tweeted it to my follower under #spacelaw hash-tag. Thanks for your perspective

Robert Walker - January 14, 2014

Thanks, glad you found it interesting and thanks for tweeting my article.

3. Space-for-All at HobbySpace » Space policy webcasts & link roundup – Dec.3.13 - December 3, 2013

[…] Last Sunday space law expert Michael Listner was on the program: Michael Listner, Sunday, 12-1-13 – Thespaceshow’s Blog. […]

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