Flying the Friendly Skies May Not be so Friendly in Outer Space: International and Domestic Law Leaves United States’ Citizen Space Tourists without a Remedy for Injury Caused by Government Space Debris

Marla Stayduhar


“Ladies and Gentlemen, we would like to welcome you to the moon. Please keep your seat belt fastened until the pilot completely stops at the gate. If this is your final destination, please collect your bags at baggage claim D. If you are headed on to Mars, your bags will be checked through to your final destination.”

These words may sound funny now, but the possibility of them becoming a reality is not as far-fetched as it might seem. On September 18, 2006, Anousheh Ansari, a United States citizen of Iranian origin, became the fourth space tourist and the first female civilian to enter outer space.

1 She also became the first astronaut to keep a space blog of her experiences to which readers could post a response.2 Shortly before Ms. Ansari’s adventure, on October 1, 2005, Gregory Olsen, scientist and entrepreneur, was the third paying civilian space tourist, and took flight on a Russian shuttle.3 Although his trip cost $20 million,4 it is not unforeseeable that  ordinary citizens will soon be able to take a short trip around the moon or visit a space resort. It has been estimated that space tourism has the potential to generate $10 billion to $20 billion in income in the next few decades.5 Counting on that projection, Virgin Galactic, founded by Richard Branson (the well-known billionaire adventurer6), recently reached an agreement with the State of New Mexico to build a space port on state land.7 Moreover, recent batches of space vehicle competitions and exhibits have piqued greater interest in space tourism for adventurers, scientists, travel agents and government officials alike.8

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