What laws apply to crimes committed in space?

Well done. Some knotty legal issues addressed in an interesting way.

Two typos I noticed…

Needs a period and a capitalized “As”:

*On the other hand, the 1979 Moon Agreement, mandating that lunar resources be shared equally, hasn’t attracted any major **signatoriesas **I suggested a few years back, nobody’s eager to sign away the quadrillions of dollars in moon minerals that may await.
Needs a colon or a dash:

These scenarios deal with serious crimesterrorism, piracy, murder.

Cecil sort of touched on this back in

Where, despite international claims to the contrary, at least one country claimed jurisdiction for anything directly above their earthly boundary. The subject at the time was ‘air rights’ but could presumably extend to criminal jurisdiction.

Obviously, fraud is perfectly legal in space …

And you say this because…?

It would depend on the gravity of the offense.

Missed a couple of emdashes there, sorry.


Thanks! All better.

Why does Cecil invoke Steven Hawking with regards to pointing out that humans will need to leave Earth to survive long term? Anyone who has studied any astronomy at all would know that the Sun will eventually expand to engulf the Earth (if it’s still there), and we probably should be gone by then. Ok, maybe we’ll need to leave sooner due to resource depletion, and the sun expanding is so far in the future compared to our civilization’s length that it’s not exactly worth worrying about, but hey, I like being pedantic.

Because there are other threats - a large meteor impact is the most obvious.

I’m guessing watchwolf was referencing Moon landing hoaxers…with the added irony that, were it “fraud,” then it wouldn’t be in space.

Reading the post and replies I thought there was some implication that fraud was legal in space because there was no gravity.

But of course there is gravity in space, as can be seen by it’s holding the moon in place…

Did you hear about the orbital bar and grille that failed after just a week?

No atmosphere.

Cool your jets, Cadets! Space law will be enforced by Captain Video and the Video Ranger!
And if you recognize those two antediluvian references, you’re a lot older than Cecil.

I think there is a far simpler and more likely answer to the question. While not (yet) enforced by treaty, it seems logical that maritime law will be extended to extra-planetary crimes. It is unlikely that any possible space-crime has not already been committed on the high seas and prosecuted by a maritime court.

In practice, any jurisdiction can enforce any law, real or imagined, at their whim, and the effective capacity of an accused to challenge an enforcement is what counts/

Case in point – last year I was on an Emirates flight from Dubai to Houston, and the flight attendants announced, immediately after takeoff, that because it was a flight bound for the USA, passengers are not allowed to assemble in groups anywhere on the aircraft. Even when flying in Iranian or Russia or Greenlandic air space. So the US has made a “law” that regulated me on the opposite side of the world from US jurisdiction. The penalty for breaking the “law” would be to deny Emirates from landing rights at US airports, and since there is a penalty, which can be imposed in practice, it has the effect of a “law”, regardless of national or international jurisdiction. A treaty is the law of the land, and airline landing rights are governed by treaty, whose participants are bound to enforce the treaty.

Similarly, in space, the USA can enforce any restrictions on any human activity that takes place under any circumstances where the USA can impose a penalty on any participant, leaving other participants (owners and operators of the spacecraft, i.e., captain of the ship) to keep their ship in order if they want to continue to do business with the USA. Such is the nature of power, which supercedes law.

I presume the space-crime situation has probably already arisen, in Antarctica, which is analogous to Space for the purposes of this discussion. If a person commits a crime in Antarctica, who has jurisdiction?

The Department of Just Ice?

Please tell me that’s an original. :smiley:

*I’ve been thinking about laws on Mars. There’s an international treaty saying that no country can lay claim to anything that’s not on Earth. By another treaty if you’re not in any country’s territory, maritime law aplies. So Mars is international waters. Now, NASA is an American non-military organization, it owns the Hab. But the second I walk outside I’m in international waters. So Here’s the cool part. I’m about to leave for the Schiaparelli Crater where I’m going to commandeer the Ares IV lander. Nobody explicitly gave me permission to do this, and they can’t until I’m on board the Ares IV. So I’m going to be taking a craft over in international waters without permission, which by definition… makes me a pirate. Mark Watney: Space Pirate. *

The Martian.


I first heard it on an episode of Night Court. It probably dates back to vaudeville.