Space Law

Earlier, land owners had the rights to the land and the air above them infinitely. When airplanes came into picture, it became impractical to take permission from each and every land owner in order to fly above their land. It was universally decided that the air 500 feet (150 metres) above the land would belong to the property owner and the air above that infinitely would belong to the government. Then again, satellites came into the picture and it was inconvenient that the satellite required permission from every country above which it would travel. Different countries have different opinions but all the countries commonly decided that somewhere between 19 miles(30 kilometres), which is the highest altitude for airplanes and balloons and 99 miles(160 kilometres) above the earth, which is the lowest altitude of satellites, the air rights of nations would cease to exist.

If an astronaut commits a crime while in space, the punishment would be given by the country in which the spaceship is registered. If the crime is committed in a Soyuz capsule, Russia would prosecute and if it is in a SpaceX capsule, the USA would prosecute. The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 says that no country can claim a section of space or a celestial body as their territory. This means that no country’s law would apply universally on the moon. This does not mean that anarchy would happen but extraterritorial jurisdiction comes into play. Every citizen should follow the laws of his own country when he is in no country. This would include the moon, space, and other no man’s land. This would mean that two persons may have to follow two different laws at the same place. In the United Kingdom, the legal drinking age is 18 years but in the USA, the legal drinking age is 21. This means that on the moon, it is not a crime if an 18 year old British astronaut consumes alcohol but it is a crime if an 18 year old American astronaut drinks alcohol. 

The International Space Station Intergovernmental Agreement, often referred to as ‘the IGA’, is an international treaty signed on 29 January 1998 by the fifteen governments involved in the Space Station project. It says that in most cases, extraterritorial jurisdiction applies. This means that in a spaceship, if there are four astronauts from four different countries, then they are bound by the laws of their own respective countries. The International Space Station Intergovernmental Agreement also allows for extradition of astronauts in all cases, regardless of whether the home countries of the astronauts have signed an extradition treaty or not. Russia does not have any extradition treaty with the USA; however, if the USA wants to prosecute a Russian astronaut, Russia will have to extradite the astronaut according to the IGA.

All these scenarios are hypothetical but the fact that the current space laws are flawed or in a way “incomplete” cannot be disregarded. As of January 2018, only 553 people have been to space and all of them are highly trained accordingly and they would put on their best behavior while in space since they represent their country. In the future, if space tourism and more frequent space visits would be implemented, the laws and legal framework should be designed clearly without loopholes. In the near future, space-mining is also a possibility which will require economic laws and environmental treaties. It could be an exciting future which lies ahead where we could see commercial space industries and various changes in the legal and political framework of space industries.

Aishwarya Says:

I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.

If you are interested in participating in the same, do let me know.

Do follow me on FacebookTwitter  Youtube and Instagram.

The copyright of this Article belongs exclusively to Ms. Aishwarya Sandeep. Reproduction of the same, without permission will amount to Copyright Infringement. Appropriate Legal Action under the Indian Laws will be taken.

If you would also like to contribute to my website, then do share your articles or poems at

We also have a Facebook Group Restarter Moms for Mothers or Women who would like to rejoin their careers post a career break or women who are enterpreneurs.

You may also like to read:

How has airport security intensified post 9/11 – part 7 – Aishwarya Sandeep

The impact of the Digital Wave – Aishwarya Sandeep

Criminal Justice System and Covid – Aishwarya Sandeep


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.