By Michelle Hanlon –
Space is truly a great unknown – especially from a legal standpoint. The Outer Space Treaty regime has served us well for the past sixty years, but we are now contemplating all sorts of new activities in a domain once solely the realm of superpower nations. The treaties reveal more gaps than solutions. We know the formation of law is a time-consuming and at times frustratingly persnickety process. So how can we promote the responsible and sustainable use of space? One way is to articulate ethical norms that will guide activity and underpin the gradual formation of sensible, realistic, justifiable and enforceable laws.
Humanity is poised on a threshold unlike any in our short history. For centuries we, across cultures and generations, have contemplated, celebrated and tried to solve the mysteries of the cosmos. In the past six decades, we have learned to effectively utilize our orbit, providing tremendous benefit to all humanity with more and more advanced communications and remote sensing capabilities. We placed a proverbial toe in the vastness of space, sending twelve of our own, and a number of robots to literally scratch the surface of the Moon and then Mars. But now the human space age has truly commenced. We contemplate orbital hotels, installations on the Moon and the promise of asteroids composed of rare-Earth metals. And we act, not just as sovereign nations, but as private individuals and organizations. It is incontrovertible that the decisions we make today – both privately and as a public community – will indelibly affect the entirety of our future, perhaps even the continuation, evolution or extinction of our species.
The current space law regime is lacking in specifics to address new space activities from in-space manufacturing to lunar and asteroid mining to, ultimately, the seeding and nurturing of human communities off Earth. Humanity must develop legal and regulatory frameworks for undertakings that once were contemplated only in the minds and pages of science fiction writers. In order to succeed, these frameworks must be built on ethical norms, principles that govern behavior even where the law falls short. They must be informed by ethical considerations as expressed by diverse cultures and philosophies.
The For All Moonkind Institute on Space Law and Ethics serves as a platform for the exchange and innovation of ideas regarding law, morality, and ethics, amplifying diverse thoughts and opinions on the future of humanity in space. The Institute will produce robust research and analysis on the myriad complex legal and ethical issues emanating from humanity’s transition to a multiplanetary and truly space faring species. And it will work to raise public awareness of, broaden civil discourse on, and encourage public support for space activities.
Among our first major projects will be a distillation of the ethical and legal norms surrounding the protection of commercial space assets from hostile actions. Concurrently, our Leaders and Fellows will undertake projects reflecting their own interests and share their own views through this blog page as we amplify diverse multi-cultural and generational opinions.
Humanity has a moral imperative to explore space responsibly, learn from and reach beyond the transgressions of our actions on Earth. We look forward to presenting vibrant and meaningful exchanges of views and helping to articulate the legal and ethical norms that will support our future.
March 27, 2023