Fly me to the moon: how will international law cope with commercial space tourism?

Steven Freeland*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


The recent confirmation by National Aeronautics and Space Administration scientists regarding the presence of substantial amounts of water on the Moon has further galvanised the aim of humankind to develop ever more ambitious plans for space travel. Central to this ongoing evolution is the development of technology capable of transporting large numbers of passengers into outer space as commercial space tourists. It is increasingly likely that, within the foreseeable future, space will no longer be the sole domain of professionally trained astronauts or the exceptionally wealthy. However, the prospects for both suborbital and orbital private human access to space give rise to some challenging legal and ethical questions and call into question the adequacy of existing international law instruments that are directed towards the regulation of the use and exploration of outer space. It is clear that the existing international legal regimes covering air and space activities are not well suited to large-scale commercial access to space, largely because they were developed at a time when such activities were not a principal consideration in the mind of the drafters. The lack of legal clarity must be addressed as soon as possible, to provide for appropriate standards that will further encourage such activities. This article examines some of the more pressing legal issues associated with the regulation of space transportation of passengers on a commercial basis, and offers some suggestions as to those areas where important principles need to be developed.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages29
JournalMelbourne Journal of International Law
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - May 2010
Externally publishedYes


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