Is the Indian Space Law robust enough to handle space tourism by 2030
In 1962, American President John F. Kennedy gave a speech, now popularly known as ‘We choose to go to the moon’, to persuade the common public to support the Apollo program. In it, he said, “We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained, and new rights to be won…I do say that space can be explored and mastered… without repeating the mistakes that man has made in extending his writ around this globe of ours.”
Indian Space Research Organisation
Around 50 years ago, 15th August 1969, on the Indian Independence Day the Indian Space Research Organisation(ISRO) was set up. The organisation’s establishment was aimed towards conduction of space missions for various national tasks. However, modern space research in India is traced to the 1920s, when scientist S. K. Mitra conducted a series of experiments leading to the sounding of the ionosphere by applying ground-based radio methods in Kolkata. It was only after 1945 that significant work was witnessed on the part of ISRO, by commendable scientists like Homi Bhabha and Vikram Sarabhai. The latter is said to be the father of the Indian space program. In its initial years, more attention was paid to atomic energy and its secondary branches. In 1948, a year after independence, the Atomic Energy Act(1948) was introduced in the country. It was later revised in 1962, three years after ISRO was set up.
Objective of ISRO
The objective of ISRO and its missions have always been in favor of the country’s missions. It has not dealt in commercial missions ever since its inception but involves itself in societal development. Recently, it has ventured into defense applications and has started to work with the Ministry of Defense, at times even helping them with warfare. With the advent of technology into the daily life of people, navigation maps, etc. have become commonplace usage. As technology ingrains itself deeper and deeper into citizen’s lives, the need for more laws regarding the same becomes increasingly important. ISRO’s Mission and Vision statements cover both the societal objectives of the country’s space programme and the thrust areas that have evolved periodically over time.
The first major project, the Satellite Instructional Television Experiment (SITE), was undertaken in 1975-76 by leasing a US satellite for a year and using it for educational outreach to 2,400 villages covering five million people. It demonstrated the potential of satellite technology as an effective mass communication tool. Since then, ISRO has recorded various other achievements in harnessing space technology to answer the development needs of the country.
With missions like Chandrayaan- I and II, wherein entire missions were completed at the fraction of the price that usually arises for other countries, amongst others India yet again finds itself in a limelight regarding space advancement. The monumental launches of Mangalyaan- the Mars Orbiter Mission, in 2014 prove that for India, the sky’s the limit. However, is this enough?
Space Tourism is essentially the recreational traveling into space. Once merely an object of a child’s wildest dreams, and fairytales, Space tourism is soon going to be a thing of reality. In the 2000s, Russia took seven tourists to space for the first time through the Russian Space Agency, Roscosmos. This turned to become precedence, with multiple nations making themselves jump onto this bandwagon. As the space tourism industry sets its ground in the market, the possibility of living for a week in space seems more reachable than ever before. The tickets are estimated to be at a whopping cost of $20 Million!
History of Space Tourism
On 30th April 2001- Russia sent the world’s first space tourist to materialize his dream. American businessman Dennis Tito flew to space on a Russian Soyuz rocket. Next year, South African businessman Mark Shuttleworth followed suit. Soon after, this became a common phenomenon. Greg Olsen, Anousheh Ansari, and numerous others joined the list of being amongst the first few to ever go to space for recreation. This marks the advent of the 21st century, where even reaching the moon is common.
The Need for Robust Space Laws
Today, India’s space projects have reached higher than it ever had. It is giving a strong competition to the mightiest of the world, Russia and the United States of America. This gives rise to the next pertinent question: Are we at par with the required space laws to further venture into advancement?
Unfortunately, the answer is negative. India is still in need of clear laws to make apparent its stand on various space-related issues. This comes in straight contrast with developed countries like Canada, Germany, and even developing ones- like South Africa. These aforementioned countries are yet to make their significant mark in the field of space missions, however, in terms of space legislation- they are fully taken care of.
The United Nations has prepared and presented a total of five treaties concerning outer space. However, India has signed only one of them. The other four have merely been ratified and been accepted to be enacted upon by their inclusion in our domestic laws. However, that is yet to happen. The only legal provisions that India has, concerning the space industry is the Satellite Communications Policy introduced in 2000, and the Remote Sensing Data Policy, 2011. The Constitution of India, though it’s Articles 51 and Article 73- promotes scientific temper and reverence for international law and treaties. These articles give way for the introduction of new laws in the wake of the Vienna Convention of the Law of Treaties from 1968.
With the advent of the ‘Make In India’ campaign wherein ISRO has decided to indigenously produce parts for its satellites, has hunted towards a self-sufficient ecosystem that focuses on the outsourcing of its production. This way, the pinpointing of liability and accreditation is relatively easier in cases of damage.
Space Laws threads in itself various other laws. For instance, according to NASA, there are currently more than 500,000 pieces of human garbage orbiting the Earth. The items are known as orbital debris. Who is going to clean it up? Whom does it belong to?