Chicago Journal of International Law


In April 2002, the aptly named South African, Mark Shuttleworth, became the world's second space tourist. Like Tito, he was launched onto the ISS by the Russian Space Agency. This "Afronaut" spent eight days on the ISS conducting scientific experiments, including a number relating to the HIV virus. The symbolic relevance of his work-South Africa is one of the countries worst affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic-provided an additional "credibility boost" to the orbital space tourist phenomenon. South African president Thabo Mbeki described Shuttleworth as "a courageous pioneer for South Africa and his continent, Africa." These two wealthy entrepreneurs, who each reportedly paid up to twenty million dollars to engage in the ultimate tourist adventure, along with those responsible for the success of SpaceShipOne, have made it almost inevitable that commercial space tourism will emerge as a realistic and foreseeable use of outer space within the near future. The prospects for both suborbital and orbital space tourism do, however, give rise to some interesting and conceptually difficult legal questions. This article sets out to examine some of the more pressing issues that must be addressed in order to allow for the appropriate regulation of space tourism activities. Legal questions involving liability, the development of property rights, and the legal status of tourists are just some of the myriad issues that require careful thought. These questions are all the more complex given the limitations of the legal regime that has already been established for Outer Space and its categorisation as a res communis "common asset"-part of the "Common Heritage of Mankind"-which also raises broader ethical questions about space tourism activities. [CONT]