Humans will be going to the Moon more than ever thanks to NASA’s Artemis program. Since we’re going to be on the Moon, doing whatever Moon stuff we end up doing, Canada is making sure that those Moon things don’t include Moon crimes. Or at least, if you commit a Moon crime, you’ll be punished for it according to Canadian law.
Canada recently introduced the Civil Lunar Gateway Agreement Implementation Act which states “A Canadian crew member who, during a space flight, commits an act or omission outside Canada that if committed in Canada would constitute an indictable offense is deemed to have committed that act or omission in Canada.“ In a nutshell, if a Canadian astronaut or a Canadian aboard a spaceflight commits what would normally be considered a crime on Earth, they could see legal repercussions upon their return from the Moon. While this might be a funny headline, it’s definitely something that makes complete sense. Why would you be able to get away with crimes just because you flew away to the Moon to do it? Presumably, other nations will follow suit as Moon travel becomes more common and frequent.
While lunar visits haven’t been the highest priority since the Space Race days, the NASA Artemis program should change that as soon as 2025. We’ve kept up to date with our planet’s satellite with rovers and probes, but nothing like the initial Apollo mission that had us walking on the surface. Under the Artemis program, we should see the first woman and the first person of color walk on the Moon. We’ll also be exploring more of the surface than we were able to back in the early spaceflight days. Finally, we’ll be establishing more of a human presence on the Moon. Ensuring laws are in place for Moon visitors will eventually be an important requirement, so it looks like Canada is just getting ahead of things.
It will be interesting to see how these laws for the Moon develop in the future. Canada’s law just covers Canadian residents in space. There are bound to be more than just Canadians heading up there, so if other nations don’t put laws in place, there may need to be some sort of international agreement to prosecute those who commit crimes in space or on the Moon. Obviously, an ideal scenario would be that no one ever commits a space crime, but you never know what’s going to happen. It seems like one of those things where it’s better to have a place just in case something does go wrong.
We’ve sent plenty of astronauts to space since the Moon missions, for things like visits to the ISS, and it’s unlikely these laws were made with the concern for astronaut behavior. As space tourism becomes more and more common and as companies are looking to establish space hotels, these laws will become more and more necessary. While space laws might not be the first thing you think of when it comes to humanity’s future in space, it’s still something that will have to be done.