Out of this world law pa­per at Waikato Univer­sity

Waikato News - - NEWS - BELINDA FEEK

The Univer­sity of Waikato is boldly go­ing where no other Kiwi univer­sity has gone be­fore.

The Fac­ulty of Law’s Dr Anna Marie Bren­nan has launched a new pa­per for its sum­mer pro­gramme — space law.

It will cover ev­ery­thing from the im­pli­ca­tions of a Don­ald Trump “space force” to look­ing at where outer space even be­gins. The pa­per is a first for any New Zealand univer­sity and is only one of a hand­ful around the world.

Dr Bren­nan started at the univer­sity in July but even be­fore sheleft her for­mer post in Liver­pool, she told the depart­ment’s head that she wanted to cre­ate the pa­per. With sup­port from man­age­ment, it’s taken off and she’s got 27 stu­dents, some of whom are univer­sity staff, also learn­ing space tourism and ad­vis­ing cor­po­ra­tions around breaches of satel­lites.

“Space law as a sub­ject is start­ing to take off in the United King­dom but there’s still only one in­sti­tu­tion there that of­fers it as a sub­ject.”

She said she’d been fas­ci­nated with space since look­ing up at the stars with her parents as kid.

“I think it’s just since I was a child look­ing up at the stars, and see­ing comets and plan­ets be­ing pointed out to me by my parents . . . [I’m] very into sci-fi movies.”

She cov­ered in­ter­na­tional law, war crimes and geno­cide be­fore space law. New Zealand had a bur­geon­ing space in­dus­try scene, thanks to Kiwi com­pany Rocket Lab.

“I set up an es­tab­lish­ment pa­per which I thought would be quite use­ful be­cause New Zealand has re­cently passed new leg­is­la­tion and es­tab­lish­ment of a new safe re­spon­si­ble se­cure space in­dus­try, so ul­ti­mately the pa­per aims to pro­vide stu­dents with an un­der­stand­ing of some of the key space law is­sues that are cur­rently con­fronting New Zealand.”

The Outer Space and High Al­ti­tude Ac­tiv­i­ties Act 2017, cov­ered is­sues in­clud­ing grant­ing per­mis­sion to Rocket Lab to launch three sites for its com­mer­cial rock­ets.

“Rocket Lab is very much of the view that New Zealand po­ten­tially in the fu­ture will be launch­ing more com­mer­cial rock­ets into outer space than the US,” she said. There was huge po­ten­tial for New Zealand to de­velop a so­phis­ti­cated, tech­nol­o­gy­driven space in­dus­try.

“The aim of the pa­per is how to prac­tice in the area of space law so they can ad­vise both states and cor­po­ra­tions re­gard­ing space law is­sues, in­clud­ing if a con­tract of a satel­lite is breached, what should hap­pen.”

Al­though space was gov­erned by the in­ter­na­tional 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which only al­lows for the use of the Moon and other ce­les­tial bod­ies for peace­ful pur­poses, there were still a plethora of is­sues that still needed to be ironed out.

A cru­cial one was clar­i­fi­ca­tion over where na­tional space ended and outer space be­gan. An­other was Trump’s pro­posed ex­trater­res­trial “space force”, an idea Dr Bren­nan be­lieved was re­dun­dant given the treaty’s peace fo­cus.

“If you were go­ing to put to­gether this kind of space force, outer space has a par­tic­u­lar detri­men­tal im­pact on the hu­man body from the point of the mus­cles ex­po­sure to ra­di­a­tion etc.”

There was also space tourism and the im­pli­ca­tions of li­a­bil­ity if some­one was in­jured on a com­mer­cial trip.

“Some stu­dents thought they would be study­ing aliens and Darth Vader, what you do if you meet Darth Vader in outer space,” she says. “We do touch on is­sues like that where you look at if con­flict broke out in space.”


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