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NASA Space

Whose Laws Apply On the ISS? 344

Hugh Pickens writes "Whose laws apply if astronauts from different countries get into a fight, make a patentable discovery, or damage equipment belonging to another country while on the International Space Station? According to the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, ratified by 98 nations, states have legal jurisdiction within spacecraft registered to them. When the space station was assembled from modules supplied by the United States, Russia, Japan and the European Space Agency (ESA), partners rejected an initial proposal that US law should prevail throughout the space station. "It was agreed that each state registers its own separate elements, which means that you now have a piece of the US annexed to a piece of Europe annexed to a piece of Japan in outer space, legally speaking," said Dr Frans von der Dunk of the International Institute of Air and Space Law at the University of Leiden. So what happens if a crime is committed in space? "If somebody performs an activity which may be considered criminal, it is in the first instance his own country which is able to exercise jurisdiction," Dr. von der Dunk added."
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Whose Laws Apply On the ISS?

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  • by rucs_hack ( 784150 ) on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @02:41PM (#21270333)
    Wait till the first child gets born. They might be the first people able to claim multinationality, or perhaps to be able to drop the concept of nationality altogether.

    Ok, unlikely, but would it not rock?
  • US Law is a bad idea (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @02:47PM (#21270439)
    Allowing the US to write law for the ISS is a bad idea, especially when the idea of patentable research comes up. That would be far to open to manipulation by less than honest politicians in Washington. The law should be written on a multinational basis through collaboration. If the project is collaborative, then the rules should be too.
  • four places at once (Score:5, Interesting)

    by brunes69 ( 86786 ) <slashdot.keirstead@org> on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @02:53PM (#21270547) Homepage
    There are documented cases of people born on airplanes who were able to claim citizenship in four countries at once - their home country, the country where the plane took off from, the country where the plane landed, and the country whose airspace the person was in when they were born.

  • by Thyamine ( 531612 ) <thyamine.ofdragons@com> on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @02:58PM (#21270633) Homepage Journal
    Definitely opens the door for some interesting questions:

    • If an astronaut from Nation X makes a discovery in Nation Y's module/ISS component/lab, can Nation Y make a claim on the discovery?
    • Who's patent/legal laws apply to the discover made by the same astronaut? Does the astronaut get to choose? Do both have to apply?
    • Can a country ban an astronaut from it's soil, and thereby ban that astronaut from using it's module/equipment?
    • If two astronauts from two different countries have an altercation in a completely different nations module, who's legal authority is applicable?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @02:58PM (#21270639)
    Are the fights that serious on the ISS? I understand if we have working colonies in orbit or on the moon we'll need to have a codified system. Did I miss something and all of the sudden the ISS is Thunderdome now?
  • well its *called* (Score:3, Interesting)

    by myowntrueself ( 607117 ) on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @03:03PM (#21270703)
    You will often see it called 'The NASA Space Station Project' in a great many news sources and thats how NASA refer to it...

    So I guess U.S. laws would apply since its obviously a NASA project...

    Oh wait, that would be in U.S. news sources... and in press releases from a U.S. space agency...

  • by Detritus ( 11846 ) on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @03:06PM (#21270741) Homepage
    Why not? They already have a firearm on the Soyuz. It's part of their survival kit in case they land off-course and have to deal with unfriendly and hungry wildlife.
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @03:14PM (#21270883) Homepage

    The ISS has an illegal modded "region-free" DVD player, purchased by NASA and shipped up in 2001.

    Properly, the ISS should have a Region 8 player. Those are for aircraft, cruise ships, and "international venues". Airlines have to buy Region 8 players and discs for in-flight entertainment. Why isn't the MPAA pursuing this? It sets a bad example.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @03:34PM (#21271219)
    Astronauts tend to be military officers of their respective country. This makes things slightly more complicated to analyse (but possibly easier to resolve) because the ISS countries almost certainly have Status of Forces Agreements with each other.

    These agreementds basically say that military personel of the Sending country who commit crimes within the Host country will be held subject to the Sender's military law. So if a US austronaut screws up in a Russian module, he will be Court Martialed under US Military Law and not subject to Russian Law.

    IANAL (IAALS), this is not legal advise, if you go to jail because of it, it's not my fault.
  • by petes_PoV ( 912422 ) on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @03:59PM (#21271557)
    For example, should stem cell research (legal in some countries, illegal in others) be permitted. Could it be done in, say, a european module, but not an american one. How about growing GM crops
  • "a piece of Europe"? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @05:25PM (#21272759)
    There's no such thing as "European law", as such, in this context.

    Which specific country is it that has a little piece floating in space?

    My guess is France, because the French are pushy about issues of nationality and sovereignty, and the rockets will have been launched from their bases.
  • Europe? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by spyfrog ( 552673 ) on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @06:54PM (#21274025) Homepage
    "It was agreed that each state registers its own separate elements, which means that you now have a piece of the US annexed to a piece of Europe annexed to a piece of Japan in outer space, legally speaking".

    Ok, anybody besides me that see an obvious question regarding this: which European states law apply in ESA's sections? There is no "Europe" when it comes to laws - each country have their own.
    So which is it? English? French? German? Dutch? Italian? Spanish? Or another European law?
  • by delong ( 125205 ) on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @07:12PM (#21274245)
    It's even worse than that. The ESA sections really muddy up the waters. The ESA and the EU have no legal personality in international law. Which member nation of the ESA would have legal responsibility? All, or none? Who the hell knows.
  • Re:Crimes in space (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Roger W Moore ( 538166 ) on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @07:44PM (#21274697) Journal
    You know, an astronaut weighs the same as a duck in space.

    Actually this is a popular misconception. A few hundred kilometres up the acceleration due to gravity is not much different than here on the Earth's surface. The difference is that the ISS is in freefall you you get apparent weightlessness - effectively all the objects are in the same orbit around the Earth and since orbital velocity is independent of mass it gives an impression of weightlessness. So actually an astronaut still weighs more than a duck in space but is unaware of this because they are in the same orbit. For true weightlessness you have to go a long, long way away.

    Sorry that was probably more physics than you wanted to know but this is Slashdot!

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