When it comes to aviation and aerospace, space tourism is arguably one of the hottest topics today. The idea of traveling in outer space inside a spacecraft or even a space hotel can be exhilarating. It will allow you to see what our Earth looks like and how the vast outer space beyond our own planet appears.
Whether orbital or suborbital, space tourism is a great way to have unique leisure or recreational experiences outside of our own planet. Some companies such as Virgin Galactic and SpaceX are looking forward to sending private passengers to outer space. Elon Musk’s SpaceX had recently launched four amateur astronauts called Inspiration4 for an orbital mission.
Now, let’s take a look at the legal aspects of space tourism. Keep on reading to learn more.
The Emergence of Space Tourism
It’s incredibly impressive how space travel has turned from mere fiction into a reality. But for the uninitiated, space tourism is a form of space travel meant for recreational, leisure, or even business purposes. The travel route can either be suborbital or orbital around the planet earth. However, there’s a third aspiration—lunar space tourism, a space trip around the moon.
Thanks to the advent of modernization and the advancement of technologies, space tourism is gradually emerging out. From the Internet of Things (IoT) robotics and 3-D printing to P-SRAM products for the aerospace industry, modern technologies have made space tourism plausible. Soon enough, this sector will eventually take ground, making traveling to space as normal as possible.
Primary Laws on Space Tourism
The aerospace industry is legally a complex one. Its subset—that is, space tourism—can be more complicated due to its legalities. As such, we have diversified laws revolving around space tourism. However, these laws get broken down into the following basics:
- Rationae loci: This involves the travel destination or route, whether via air space or outer space.
- Rationae materiae: This involves the means of transport, whether aircraft or spacecraft.
Keep in mind that there’s no demarcation line set in place between air space and outer space. However, the altitude and the material serve as criteria for considering the application of space law.
In addition, the means of transport also tell if the space laws apply. For instance, the Virgin Galactic’s aircraft can fall under this law. Why? It’s a winged vehicle with a rocket engine carried at a high altitude designed to travel to outer space.
The Legal Definition of a Space Tourist
It’s crucial to consider the space tourists and their legal rights. Space tourism involves customers or passengers willing to pay money and travel to outer space amid the risks to their health and lives. They aren’t full-fledged astronauts, although they must be physically and mentally qualified for space travel.
The US Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004 defines a space tourist as “an individual, who is not a crew member, carried within a launch vehicle or reentry vehicle.”
In addition, it’s crucial to understand the distinction between suborbital flights and prolonged stays in outer space. Those pursuing suborbital travels are space participants, while those staying in outer space for a long time are astronauts.
The Contract Between the Customer and the Travel Operator
Another essential legal consideration is the contract between the space tourist and the space travel company. Know that space travel can be complicated as it isn’t a mode of transport from point A to point B. There are risks involved with leaving Earth and reentering the planet’s atmosphere. Space travel can indeed pose a threat to life and health. Hence, the contract must clearly stipulate the risks involved, and the space tourists must agree and sign.
In the United States, two federal legal aspects govern space tourism: the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004 and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations adopted on December 15, 2006. They cover space crew qualifications and training required for space travel. Most importantly, they ensure informed consent from space crew and space tourists.
There’s no denying how space tourism has now become a reality. Albeit there’s a lot of considerations to make, we can see how this sector will soon grow and flourish. However, it’s important to be well-acquainted with the legalities involved in space travel.
Whether you’re a space travel operator, crew, or tourist, be sure to know and understand the laws concerning space tourism. Who knows? The recent space travels for tourism can lead to more and more trips to outer space. Ultimately, these will boost space exploration and take the aerospace industry to the next level.