A Conundrum of Legal and Ethical Implications

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Summary

Commercialization of space opens up new possibilities including the possibility for lunar burials. This concept raises a number of ethical and legal concerns. This article explores the implications of space Privatization, the responses of indigenous communities, as well as the legal complexities surrounding space activities.

As space exploration moves increasingly into the private sector new and previously unimagined options emerge. One of these possibilities is the ability to send the ashes of our loved ones to the Moon. This concept, while intriguing to some people, presents a number of ethical and legal issues that need careful consideration.

“Just because you can, does not mean that you should.”

The Moon: Open for Business

Astrobotic’s Peregrine, a lander from the US, was set to carry scientific instruments as well as the ashes of famous science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke. These “vanity urns,” as the canisters were called, were a part of a partnership that allowed paying customers send their remembrances and scientific instruments to the Moon.

Celestis Space and Elysium Space have both offered services that allow ashes to be sent into space via suborbital and earth orbital flights. However, the concept of a Moon burial is a significant step further and costs substantially more – around US$13,000.

Ethical Considerations

Some people may find it appealing to send ashes to the Moon, but others are against it. Indigenous cultures, such as the Navajo Nation and the Navajo Nation of the United States, consider the Moon to be sacred and do not want it used as a site for memorials. NASA, in a press conference, stated that it did not have any control over the contents of the Peregrine. This highlights the gap between international space law and commercial enterprise.

A Legal Labyrinth

As the commercialization and use of space increases, so does the complexity of the legal environment. The Outer Space Treaty(OST), declares the space as “the province of all mankind” and bans national appropriation. But it does not address private companies or individuals.

The Artemis Accords signed by 32 countries has expanded protection of lunar sites of historical importance. However, these protections apply only to governments and not to commercial missions. In addition, the Moon, or any celestial body for that matter, is not owned by anyone. This makes granting burial right a legal challenge.

Countries like Indonesia and New Zealand, which have space laws that include grounds to refuse payload items that are deemed not in the national interest of the country, could be forced to expand their legal frameworks as commercial space activities increase.

Where do you draw the line?

As we explore the cosmos further, we will need to decide where the boundaries of acceptable behaviour are. While astronauts’ mementos on the Moon are culturally and historically important, sending personal objects like pet ashes or hair clippings may not be.

The failed Peregrine Mission, with its ashes, vanity payloads and ash, is a good example of the uncharted terrain we are entering. It highlights the importance of comprehensive legal and ethical guidance as we consider future commercial activities, such as asteroid-mining. Space colonization.

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