Elon Musk wants to rule Mars

Elon Musk wants to make his own laws on Mars

The US entrepreneur Elon Musk wants to build a colony on Mars with his space company SpaceX. It should be governed freely and independently of earthly laws. But it's not that simple.

From Michael Förtsch

Just recently, at an online conference, Elon Musk admitted that his space company SpaceX is behind schedule. The development of the gigantic Starship is not proceeding as fast as once thought. Originally, the first flight in the direction of Mars was to be undertaken as early as 2022. Now this will be delayed by at least two years. Still, Elon Musk is convinced that he can bring the first humans to Mars before the end of the decade. And not just to build a small habitat, but a self-sufficient city. It would take around 100 megatons of freight and 100,000 people within ten years.

Should that succeed, the question arises as to how such a city is governed and managed: Which laws will apply there? Elon Musk and SpaceX have now given a first hint as to how they envision the government of a Mars colony. Namely in the general terms and conditions for the Starlink satellite internet network, the terrestrial version of which is currently being prepared for the beta test - and which will also provide Mars with fast and reliable communication options at some point. "For services that are provided on Mars or in transit to Mars via a Starship or another colonization spaceship, the parties recognize Mars as a free planet," it says.

When it comes to SpaceX, "no government based on Earth has the authority or sovereignty over activities on Mars," the terms of use continue. The space company does not want to let any earthly government rule on its plans and activities on the red planet. Instead, a Mars colony should govern itself and set up "self-governing principles" that are "established in good faith at the time of colonization on Mars".

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There are already rules

Elon Musk speculated as early as 2018 what such self-government might look like. He said that a Mars colony would most likely adapt a form of direct democracy. "Everyone votes on every topic, that's how it works," he said. This would require short and concise laws that cover the most important areas of life. Elon Musk's performance is not without criticism. Because it ignores, among other things, various agreements and treaties, some of which were concluded decades ago between individual states on action in space. And according to legal and space experts, companies or “non-governmental entities” from the respective nations should also adhere to it.

Accordingly, Mars would be a largely free planet, on which Elon Musk and the Mars colony could certainly be talked into their activities and plans. Among other things, space treaties regulate whether and how resources may be mined on foreign planets, how to deal with "relics" from earlier space missions or whether weapons are allowed and much more. A colony on Mars would also be obliged to help other Mars colonies or individual astronauts, regardless of their origin, if they got into trouble. Furthermore, SpaceX would have to be liable if it causes damage with rockets, crashed satellites or other “space objects”.

Teaser image: NASA