Considering pretty much only the best and brightest have ever made it out of Earth orbit, the question of crime in space isn’t one we’ve had to deal with. But, as humanity eventually reaches out to the stars, we’re going to have our first theft (or murder!) up there, eventually. So, how will we deal with it?
Space reports a new study in Room: The Space Journal, written by Christopher J. Newman, a reader in public law at the University of Sunderland, is tackling just that issue. How will humanity deal with crime if it occurs on an alien planet, or a spaceship? Newman notes these problems could crop up sooner than we think, especially once space tourism ramps up in the next few years. He posits that humanity will need “some form of legal framework” to ensure its behavior can be regulated.
We already have a few options to serve as inspiration, most notably the United Nations treaty for space exploration (aka the Outer Space Treaty) that was put together in the 1960s. It focused mostly on keeping nuclear weapons out of orbit, limiting national claims to areas in space, and holding nations responsible for potential damage. Beyond that, Newman notes we can also look to aviation regulations, which puts a pilot in charge with a chain of command.
Looking further down the line, Newman recommends we develop a provision for a “space jail,” since that seems to be one of the most universal forms of punishment among humans. So it stands to reason we’d follow the same tenets in space. He also recommends we perform some additional study into this subject before sending teams of humans out to explore the stars. Which is a pretty good point.
How do you think we should deal with crime in space?