One-Way Ticket to Mars: The Privatization of the Space Industry and its Environmental Impact on Earth and Beyond

Nam, Yuree | November 20, 2023

In the 21st century, the space industry has changed from a government-focused practice to a rapidly growing private sector. Billionaires like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos operate private companies for the advance of space travel and exploration. Other companies like Lunar Outpost, ispace, and Masten Space Systems were selected by NASA to collect lunar resources back in 2020. The concern is that current international space law is insufficient to regulate private actors who play a significant role in exacerbating environmental problems. Whether it be rocket emissions and environmental justice concerns on Earth, or commercial resource extraction in outer space, private actors need to be regulated to protect the environment, create a sustainable long-term process for space exploration, and maintain international relations. The 1967 Outer Space Treaty and the 1979 Moon Agreement that were created for the purpose of banning weapons of mass destruction in outer space, do not address or regulate the environmental issues caused by private actors today. With the addition of new international agreements, like the U.S.-led Artemis Accords which encourage commercial activity by private actors, regulation is even more difficult and raises international relations concerns. This Note proposes regulating U.S. rocket emissions and facilities under the Clean Air Act and regulating commercial resource extraction through an international licensing system.