What happens when someone dies in space? Space tourism raises new legal and moral issues

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<p>Commercial spaceflight companies such as Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin now offer exclusive opportunities for celebrities and civilians to travel into space.</p>
<p>Traditionally, astronauts have been subjected to <a href=rigorous training and a medical examination before going into space, and the risk of death from natural causes was considered low.

But in this new era of space tourism, it seems that medical screening is not be executedand only minimal pre-flight training provided.

With a wide variety of people now going into space and the perspective of coming years humans establishing moon bases and beyond that raises an important question: what if someone dies in space?

Under international space law, each country is responsible for authorizing and supervising all national space activities, whether governmental or private. In the United States, commercial tourist spaceflight requires a launch license issued by the Federal Aviation Administration.

If someone died on a commercial tourist mission, the cause of death would have to be determined. If the death of a spaceflight participant was due to a mechanical defect in the spacecraft, the Federal Aviation Administration would seek to suspend further launches by the company pending an investigation.

If mechanical failure is ruled out, consideration should be given to the overall duty of care to all travelers by the commercial supplier and whether they did everything possible to prevent the death of the person.

Read more: Oldest astronaut William Shatner at 90 – here’s how space tourism could affect older people

Uncomfortable but inevitable

The time spent in space on these tourist missions currently varies from one a few minutes has a A few days. This means that the risk of death in space from natural causes is very low, but not impossible.

The question of what to do if someone dies in space will become much more relevant – and complex – as humans embark on longer missions deeper in space, and even one day settle permanently. in outer space.

Basically, there will have to be some sort of investigative process in place to establish the cause of death of humans in space. There have been investigations before, such as the investigation into the Shuttle Columbia disaster in 2003, when NASA’s space shuttle Columbia disintegrated while returning to Earth, killing all seven astronauts on board.

But these were specialized investigations of high-profile accidents and concerned only US spaceflight. As the opportunities for space travel increase, it is inevitable, whether by accident, illness, or age, that death in space or on another celestial body will occur.

A formal procedure for the investigation of deaths during long-duration missions and space implantations will be necessary to ensure that there is clear information on those who have died, the causes of death, so that lessons can be learned and possible patterns detected.

Commercial spaceflight allows more people to travel into space. blue origin

Many procedures associated with inquiries and investigations could be imported from Earth. International space law provides the default position whereby a country that has registered a spacecraft has jurisdiction over that space object and any personnel. It is likely that a country with such jurisdiction would be the natural authority to initiate an investigation and determine the procedures to be followed in the event of a death in space.

While this is a useful starting point, a deal tailored to the specific colony or mission would probably be best. Planning for a space mission includes consideration of factors such as diet, nourishment, radiation shielding, and waste disposal. Establishing processes for what to do if someone dies and incorporating those processes into any plan will make a traumatic event a little less traumatic.

Having an agreement in place at the start of a mission is even more important if there are multiple participating countries.

Practical Considerations

In addition to the legal dimension, missions that send humans further into the solar system will have to consider the physical disposal of human remains. Here it is important to take into account that different cultures treat their dead in a very different way.

On short missions, it is likely that the body would be brought back to Earth. The body should be preserved and stored for avoid contamination of the surviving crew.

During a round trip to Mars, which would last for years and could be a prospect in decades to come, the body could eventually to be frozen in the cold of space to reduce its weight and make it easier to store when it returns to Earth.

But if we start colonizing outer space, bodies may need to be disposed of rather than stored.

Read more: Death in space: this is what would happen to our bodies

Although Star Trek fans may remember how Spock’s body was jettisoned into space, it probably wouldn’t be desirable in real life. Countries may object to a human corpse floating in space, while the body itself may contribute to the growing problems created by space debris. The family of the deceased may wish that the body of their loved one be returned to them.

Disposal of human remains in a colony is equally difficult. The body of a colonist buried on another planet can biologically contaminate this planet. Cremation is also likely to contaminate and could be resource intensive.

Over time, there will undoubtedly be technical solutions for the storage and disposal of human remains in space. But the ethical questions around death in space transcend anthropological, legal and cultural boundaries. The idea may be uncomfortable to contemplate, but it’s one of the many conversations we’ll need to have as humans become an outer-space species.

This article is republished from The conversation under Creative Commons license. Read it original article.

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Christopher Newman receives funding from the British Space Agency and Research England. He is a fellow of the International Institute of Space Law and an academic consultant to Northern Space and Security (NORSS) on law and policy issues.

Nick Caplan receives funding from the UK Space Agency and the European Space Agency. It is affiliated with the UK Space Life and Biomedical Sciences Association.

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