AMU APU Legal Studies Original Space

The Astra Carta and How Its Creation Will Impact Outer Space

In 2020, the Sustainable Markets Initiative was launched by then-Prince of Wales Charles Mountbatten-Windsor (currently King Charles III) during the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland. The Sustainable Markets Initiative is the brainchild of King Charles III and is a private-sector organization. It is focused on helping companies operate in a manner that “respects and protects the world’s limited resources,” according to Bank of America.

Related: Mission to Mars: AARG’s First Mission at the MDRS – Part 1

What Is the Astra Carta and Why Is It Significant to Outer Space?

The Astra Carta is a written mandate created by the Sustainable Markets Initiative. It encourages nations, private actors and various stakeholders to use outer space in a responsible, sustainable manner.  

However, the Astra Carta’s “Statement of Intent” clearly states that its focal point is to encourage the “private sector to align their space-related activities with sustainability goals, approaches and standard in partnership with governments, international organizations and other stakeholders.”

The Astra Carta has several objectives, including:

The Astra Carta provides practical solutions on how to adopt its recommendations on sustainability as a whole. These recommendations are intended to:

  • Preserve nature, science and technology
  • Create sustainable markets in space
  • Promote human tourism
  • Ensure equitable access to space
  • Mitigate space debris

Surprisingly, the Astra Carta offers a sustainable course of action in areas that are often overlooked in general space discourse. 

For instance, the articles delineated under the “Space Tourism” section of the Astra Carta outline actions that private actors and other stakeholders should adhere to concerning tourist travel to outer space. They express the wish that companies engaged in space tourism should “develop guidelines and regulations for space tourism operators to ensure safety, wellbeing and informed consent of space tourists, including measures for medical screenings, training and emergency preparedness.”  

Guidelines that ensure and protect the welfare of space tourists are rarely mentioned, let alone discussed, in most current space law forums. The foresight of the Astra Carta’s creators, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield working in conjunction with King Charles III, is commendable in this instance.

Related: Mission to Mars: AARG’s First Mission at the MDRS – Part 2

Why This Mandate Will Prove Useful in the Future of Space

Overall, the Astra Carta is not conveying anything daring or new, and that may be where its value lies. It is easier to establish a customary legal framework when spacefaring countries and commercial entities are repeatedly presented with the same set of objectives.

Custom is relevant in this instance, because customary international law is the result of the habitual practices of states and organizations in a particular field of activity. Commercial business and government action based on the same or similar objectives from various frameworks, protocols, and accords can create a durable legal foundation for sustainable, responsible commercial space activities.

Alexandra Dolce is a commercial law attorney in New York City, specializing in contracts and procurement. She recently earned an 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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