San Diego International Law Journal

Library of Congress Authority File


Document Type



Three decades ago, Dr. J. Henry Glazer, onetime Chief Counsel for NASA Ames, proposed the establishment of a body of astrolaw. “The direct subjects of Space Law are sovereign nations” he observed. The four widely ratified space treaties contain principles and guidelines designed to govern the activities of State. Conversely, the direct subjects of astrolaw would be natural and legal persons in space. In Dr. Glazer’s view, “astrolaw focuses not upon space as a legal regime, but upon space as a place.” Our evolution into a spacefaring species, with single and then multiple human communities off-Earth, is a human necessity. Assuring the sustainability and success of those communities requires the development of guidelines and principles that recognize space as a place, and not a legal regime.

We are experiencing a paradigm shift in how activities are conducted in space. Space actors are no longer just governments. And soon, humans in space will not all be government employees or contractors. Elon Musk has promised to send a spacecraft of civilians around the Moon, and more than one company is exploring the establishment of a private space station for use as a hotel. Not only will we have civilian tourists in space, we will have civilian workers to cater to their needs. Addressing on-orbit torts and crimes through the current space treaty regime would lead to jurisdictional absurdities and even diplomatic morass.

This Article proposes that the advent and proliferation of space tourism should be the main frame from which we, as a society and global community, consider the regulation of extraterrestrial human civilization. The presentation advocates for the establishment of a Code of Conduct containing principles and guidelines designed to govern the activities and behavior of humans in space. The Code will be loosely modeled on the Code of Conduct for the Space Station Crew developed pursuant to the International Space Station Intergovernmental Agreement. However, rather than the individual remaining the responsibility of his or her national or sponsoring government, the individual shall be responsible for his or her own actions. This Article outlines the substantive terms of the Code of Conduct which, the author proposes should be adopted by national governments and implemented through national regulatory regimes.

Establishing a Code of Conduct will lay the foundation for a universal law, astrolaw, in anticipation of the commonality of humans living, working and vacationing in space. It will support and sustain the success of extraterrestrial human communities. It will help prevent unnecessary conflict that may, because of State responsibility for nationals in space, easily rise to diplomatic crisis. And it will thwart the threat of dystopian tyranny on these private pockets of human civilization. Finally, it will assure the safety of the hardy souls that venture into space as private citizens and work responsibly to develop international guidelines that will prevent disasters, without stifling commercial industry, innovation and exploration.