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Aviation & Space Law

What Regs Apply if Humans Meet ET? Can Asteroid Miners Profit? Space Lawyers Seek Answers

Posted Aug 9, 2012 5:30 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Should humans who meet extraterrestrials be quarantined? Who pays if satellites fall to the ground, hurting people or damaging property? Space lawyers are raising the issues and providing the answers.

Space lawyers really do exist, and their practice has real-life consequences, Fast Company reports. “Depending on whether the space lawyer is in private practice or academia, he or she could handle anything from liability laws pertaining to litigious space tourists to the legal framework surrounding human encounters with ET,” the story says.

An asteroid mining venture called Planetary Resources has hired “a bevy” of space lawyers, since legal issues concerning sovereignty over asteroids are unclear, the story says. NASA has hired space lawyers to update its guidelines governing humans who visit other planets; the agency has already repealed an old policy requiring quarantines. Other lawyers in the field deal with insurance issues for paying space tourists.

The “bread and butter” issues of this practice area concern satellites, Fast Company says. Legal questions include liability for falling satellites and fault when they fail to function.

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