AMU APU Legal Studies Original Space

Space Governance: Why Ethical Legal Frameworks Are Necessary

According to the Wilson Center, the term global space governance refers to “a collection of international, regional, or national laws as well as regulatory institutions and actions, manners, and processes of governing or regulating space-related affairs or activities.” Collectively, these regulatory frameworks enable the creation, monitoring and enforcing of space activity.  

There are myriad legal and ethical issues associated with the commercialization, travel, and colonization of outer space, and a significant void exists regarding the governance of those issues. Consequently, the space domain is ready for the creation of a new, fair and just legal system of space governance.

RELATED: Outer Space: We Need to Establish Jurisdiction and Laws Now

There is a distinct difference between law and ethics. According to A Train Education, the rule of law is a codified legal standard that express how we govern ourselves. Laws evolve to express our history and how we currently want to be governed.

Space ethics can benefit space governance.

A Train Education also notes that ethics, by contrast, are philosophical in nature and are the foundation of human behavior. They show our values and allow us to assess our actions to determine what is right and what is wrong.

Legal frameworks should be ethical because ethics ultimately lead to individual or group action. Ethics are the fiber of our humanity and distinguish us as human. If a legal system or framework is unethical, this absence can lead to the arbitrary and capricious loss of human rights, human life, property, and freedom.

How Can Space Ethics Benefit Space Governance?

The Space Review notes that ethics can be used as a tool for how we reason and collaborate when we are making decisions concerning the commercialization, use, travel and colonization of outer space. Ethics can also help us determine the best way to do what is worth doing in outer space.

For example, if a decision is made that various moon rocks must be mined to enhance cancer research, the ethical questions associated with this decision would be:

  • “What is a tolerable extraction efficiency level?”
  • “Who would be permitted to conduct the extraction and why?”

In other words, space ethics helps us think about what we are doing and the consequences of our actions in space. Also, The Space Review notes that space ethics helps us gain perspective because we have to deal with a broader spectrum of cultures and must take into consideration a wider range of cultural perspectives and cultural needs.

According to Article I of the Outer Space Treaty, outer space is supposed to be the “province of all mankind.” As a result, one nation, a group of nations, one company, or several companies should not have unfettered access to outer space or an authority to uphold outer space governance.

RELATED: Space Law: Current Agreements and the Future Possibilities

What Is Needed to Create a Strong Ethical Framework for Space Governance?

According to The Space Review, strong government agendas and norms, based on the highest ethical principles, must be established and implemented by different nations. That will allow humanity to regulate, monitor, and minimize the current ethical gaps and future ethical wrongdoings in outer space.

In the realm of outer space, governments must reimagine their roles in drafting legislation, policy formation and decision-making for effective space governance. That will permit the incorporation of multidisciplinary and international contexts, conducive to avoiding past, present, and future behavioral mistakes.

Alexandra Dolce is a commercial law attorney in New York City, specializing in contracts and procurement. She is currently pursuing a LL.M. in space law from the University of Mississippi. Alexandra holds a bachelor’s in print journalism from Howard University, a master’s in diplomacy from Norwich University and a J.D. from Temple University.

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