NASA InSight Lander Arrives on Martian Surface: Lessons for Jurisprudence?

This post has been contributed by Professor Jill Marshall, Module Convenor for Jurisprudence and legal theory.

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There are many issues and problems occurring in the world today, close to home and far away from it: wherever you may happen to live.  But there is one piece of amazing news: on 26 November 2018, NASA’s InSight mission successfully touched down on Mars.

This is the 8th time in human history that we have ‘reached’ the planet. What can this tell us about law? Not many have asked the question: in fact as far as I know, I’m the first just now! @NASAInSight has its own twitter account (at time of writing 593.1k followers).  Its posts are written in the first person – this robotic explorer has become human-like in its qualities and narration.

InSight will operate on the surface for one Martian year, plus 40 Martian days, or sols, until Nov. 24, 2020. This two year mission (in Earth time) will involve studying the deep interior of Mars to learn how all celestial bodies with rocky surfaces, including Earth and the Moon, formed.  “Landing was thrilling, but I’m looking forward to the drilling,” said InSight principal investigator Bruce Banerdt. “That’s one giant leap for our intrepid, briefcase-sized robotic explorers,” said Joel Krajewski, MarCO project manager at JPL.

The wonders of space have captured our imaginations since the dawn of time. And in these days of looming crises globally, it is perhaps apt that we look beyond this planet to see what lies beyond and to enquire how this relates to our understanding of law and how law applies there.

Does law apply in Outer Space? Yes, it does, through International Law regulations such as the Outer Space Treaty 1967 and the Moon Agreement of 1984. There are rules and regulations applying to employees, here on Earth and in Outer Space, their health and well being, laws governing sovereignty, property and mining rights. In general, any exploration needs to benefit all countries and peoples. The overarching need is to maintain International peace and promote International co-operation. If we did reach the position of migrating to the Moon or Mars, what laws would we adopt there? Would they differ from here on Earth? If there were Martians already living there, would they already have a legal system?  Does that depend on their sharing features with us as humans to be able and capable of creating a legal system? What would those features be? If law is a social creation, could Martians have created a legal system? And how would ‘humans’ be incorporated into that system?  Or would the new migrating humans have to set up a new legal order?

Some questions and ideas to ponder wherever you happen to live on Earth!

See: @NASAInSight and



  1. Morning Professor,

    May I add something in support of your view please?

    We can save the Earth by Sustainable Development Goals, but not for much decades. Also We need another planet to survive because according to Astrobiology, the sun is getting bigger and bigger everyday and the habitable zone is moving from Earth to Mars.This Earth will live on, but human civilisation will be extinct, if we can’t find another habitable planet for us now.

  2. how accurate is the film “The Martian” when matt damon said that the law of the sea apply in mars?

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