After the outer space expeditions have landed successfully, and it is a step forward towards discovering if there is life on Mars and beginning to explore the planet for its colonization, the most logical question comes … who would rule Mars?
IN THIS STORY:· 3 space missions from 3 different countries· Mars is a trending topic· Outer Space Treaty
∘ About The Treaty
∘ An Out-Dated Treatise But With Implications for Today· Elon Musk’s Vision· What About Mining?· But what if a future colony declares independence?· About Nationality, will the passport be “Martian”?
3 space missions from 3 different countries
Three space missions from three different countries (The United Arab Emirates, China & United States) have recently arrived in the orbit of the Red Planet for different exploration purposes.
The first was the United Arab Emirates. The Hope mission probe is already orbiting Mars to study its climate for the next two years in what is framed as the first space mission of the Arab country, which has formed its own agency in its attempts to escape due to dependence on oil.
Forming what is possibly the first Martian jam, the Chinese probe Taianwen-1 later arrived, which will remain in orbit too, in May, deposit its own rover that touches the red earth.
And finally, the United States and its Perseverance rover, the most important exploration mission to date and which could collect samples of whether any kind of life ever existed and smooth the way to a possible manned mission in the future.
Mars is a trending topic
NASA has been working for years on the Artemis Mission, which seeks to take the first human to Mars with the Moon as an intermediate base. Meanwhile, Elon Musk’s SpaceX has spent years thinking about a possible arrival date that, however, each time it seems that if it happens it will be more in the mid-30s than before.
Now, like Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin they left us that image with the flag of the United States on the Moon. Will we see something like this in a hypothetical future? And going further, who will have control and government of Mars to settle there?
The saga of novels and series The Expanse set 200 years in the future, conjures up an independent Mars after years of Earth colonization. Would something like this be possible?
Outer Space Treaty
Fortunately, that image of the straight flag on the lunar surface had only a symbolic purpose. Nothing small in the middle of the space race against the Soviet Union, but only that.
Since 1967 there is the so-called Outer Space Treaty, whose full name is “Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies”. Under this very long name is a text protected by international law and the UN on the limits of the use of space.
Although it was originally only signed by the US, the Soviet Union, and the UK, currently 110 countries have signed and ratified it.
The agreement is outdated and responds to the concerns of the time. Among other things, the use of satellites, space, and celestial bodies for the location of atomic weapons was prohibited. And a consensus was reached that Space belongs to all Humanity. Of course, no one asked non-earthlings.
The treaty is full of taglines in which its norms are affected, including “the Moon and other celestial bodies.” That is, by extension, also to Mars.
About The Treaty
The first two articles make it clear that space exploration must be cooperative, and emphasizes that no celestial body can be appropriated by any of the party countries:
The exploration and use of outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries, irrespective of their degree of economic or scientific development, and shall be the province of all mankind.
Outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, shall be free for exploration and use by all States without discrimination of any kind, on a basis of equality and in accordance with international law, and there shall be free access to all areas of celestial bodies.
There shall be freedom of scientific investigation in outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, and States shall facilitate and encourage international co-operation in such investigation.
Outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means.
The treaty includes some more important points such as that all states must cooperate in the rescue of astronauts if required. In addition, it allows the use of the military for exploration purposes as long as they are peaceful.
An Out-Dated Treatise But With Implications for Today
This international treaty has already had some important implications. For example, in 2015 the Curiosity rover could not take samples of what could be remnants of saltwater on Mars because the previous treaty contained any contamination from Earth elements towards the outside and vice versa.
This last aspect about the ‘nationality’ of ships, satellites, and possible bases can be seen quite well in the novel and the film by The Martian where the protagonist must make the decision to leave his jurisdiction (his North American base) without receiving the seen well, turning him into a kind of space pirate’.
Elon Musk’s Vision
But how does this apply in a world like today where private companies may have the capacity to reach Mars, or at least aspire to do so?
This was the subject of controversy a few months ago when (we don’t know if in the formula of a usual Musk joke) the Starlink conditions appealed to the use of Mars as a “Free Planet.”
Given this, the treaty states in article 6 that governmental and non-governmental organizations (companies) will be liable for their acts on the space before the State in which they are based.
States Parties to the Treaty shall bear international responsibility for national activities in outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, whether such activities are carried on by governmental agencies or by non- governmental entities, and for assuring that national activities are carried out in conformity with the provisions set forth in the present Treaty. The activities of non-governmental entities in outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, shall require authorization and continuing supervision by the appropriate State Party to the Treaty. When activities are carried on in outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, by an international organization, responsibility for compliance with this Treaty shall be borne both by the international organization and by the States Parties to the Treaty participating in such organization.
Following Starlink’s assessment, Antonino Salmeri, lawyer and doctoral researcher in space law at the University of Luxembourg, said that “there is no legal option to consider Mars a free planet.” In other words, Mars would become today and under our conception a kind of province of Earth, in a very vague way.
What About Mining?
This has also come into question about possible space mining. In 2015, still under the Obama administration, the United States launched the so-called Space Act.
The legislation gave US space companies the right to own and sell the natural resources they extract from bodies in space, including asteroids.
As Gbenga Oduntan, a specialist in International Trade at the University of Kent explained then, that idea went “against a series of treaties and international customary law that already apply to the entire universe.”
“The new law is nothing more than a classic interpretation of the Wild West ‘dare wins’ philosophy. The law will also allow the private sector to conduct space innovations without regulatory oversight for a period of eight years and will protect participants in spaceflight from financial ruin. This will surely make private companies start incorporating asteroid mining into their investment plans”, he wrote.
Fun Fact: This legislation put aside the possible extraterrestrial life, with which it could not be traded.
But what if a future colony declares independence?
In a much more distant future and with a much longer-range elucubration, it would be left to wonder what would happen if a possible Martian colony decided to become independent at a given moment.
There are opinions such as that of Jacob Haqq-Misra, a researcher at the Blue Marble Space Science Institute, and author of an essay entitled The transformative value of the liberation of Mars in which he argues that Mars should be totally independent from the beginning. . “With Mars, there seems to be the potential to do something different with civilization than we have already done,” he opined.
The idea is simple. Instead of humans landing and living on Mars responding to companies and institutions on their home planet, they should be given complete independence. To guarantee this independence, Haqq-Misra outlines five release provisions.
The first, that humans who land on Mars renounce their terrestrial citizenship, becoming Martians. Second, governments, businesses, and people on Earth cannot interfere with the politics or economy of Mars. That means there is no coercive trade, no economic meddling. Third, scientific exploration of Mars can continue as long as it does not interfere with any independently developing civilizations. Fourth, Martians must determine land use on Mars. And fifth, everything that was brought from Earth to Mars is now Martian, and Earthlings cannot ask for it back.
About Nationality, will the passport be “Martian”?
Haqq-Misra’s ideas reflect the possibility that humans who arrive on Mars do so without a return ticket, so they should be given independence in their lives and their decisions.
In this regard, Salmeri also alluded to Article I (2) of the UN Charter, which provides for “the self-determination of peoples.”
“If and when SpaceX’s vision of one million people living on Mars becomes a reality, there is no question that this community would have the right to political independence and self-regulation. However, this result cannot be imposed in advance or achieved against international law. Rather, it can only develop from the natural evolution of circumstances, under the safeguards of the rule of law”, he wrote.
In the early stages, any Martian settlement will have to rely on supplies, technologies, personnel, and general logistical support from Earth. Conversely, this dependence will also involve the legitimate exercise of Earth-based authority to protect the settlement from degenerating into Wild West behavior and violence.
Later, when the agreement has developed an autonomous structure and a balanced division of powers, independence and self-regulation would come naturally, but not a minute before the conditions to protect fundamental rights are in place. This seems to be the only position in which Mars would not belong to Earth, but to the first Martian humans.
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