Outlaws of the Moon? Crime and punishment for a spacefaring civilisation?

Christopher J. Newman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


Although human spaceflight has progressed from its earliest years, the relatively low number of travellers means there has been no real need to contemplate the way in which individuals are sanctioned or even establishing what 'good' or 'bad' behaviour looks like in the context of human space travel. This paper will examine theoretical and doctrinal approaches to criminal law and discuss how such principles can be successfully transplanted into the nascent arena of extra-terrestrial exploration. As plans for long distance missions and ultimately settling on other planets develop, the need to consider what criminality is, and how it might be dealt with in these foundational years becomes more salient. The paper will consider whether the fragmentation of crime and punishment along national jurisdictional lines is either inevitable or desirable. This paper will build upon the embryonic research into criminality in outer space and consider four distinct, but interrelated questions. The paper will start by considering foundational principles that could govern the administration of justice, on both long duration spaceflight and the early settlements of celestial bodies. Related to that, the discussion will evaluate how the competing jurisdictional approaches to criminality will be balanced in the space environment. Finally, broader questions surrounding the technical and procedural measures that will need to be incorporated into the earliest stages of mission planning will be addressed. Underpinning the discussion will be consideration of whether, with the promulgation of the Artemis Accords, there is now an emerging value system underpinning State, private actor and individual behaviour.

Original languageEnglish
JournalProceedings of the International Astronautical Congress, IAC
Publication statusPublished - 12 Oct 2020
Event71st International Astronautical Congress, IAC 2020 - Virtual, Online
Duration: 12 Oct 202014 Oct 2020


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