Podcast: Who Governs Space?

by Ryan Schleeter

May 31, 2016

Check out episode 19 of Completely Optional Knowledge, the podcast that answers questions you never knew you had. Some things in life are #CompletelyOptional — satisfying your curiosity doesn’t have to be one of them.

International Space Station Views

Photo by NASA, taken from the International Space Station in 2015.

Is a flag on the moon an interstellar land grab? If a baby is born on space vessel, what nationality does it have? Which passports will get you a spot on the International Space Station?

These are the questions on Completely Optional Knowledge listener Tim Burberich’s mind, who called us up to find out who makes the rules in outer space. So we got in touch with Joanne Irene Gabrynowicz, who might just have the coolest job title in the world: space lawyer.

Joanne advises the United Nations and directs the International Institute of Space Law, so she’s dealt with a pretty impressive range of galactic legal questions. As she explains, our current system of governing space dates back to 1957, when the Soviet Union launched the first ever man-made satellite — Sputnik — into orbit.

Since then, humans have written treaties and passed agreements to treat space as a “global commons,” a place for all of us.


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Ryan Schleeter

By Ryan Schleeter

Ryan Schleeter is a senior communications specialist with Greenpeace USA covering climate and energy. His writing has appeared in National Geographic, Grist, GreenBiz, EcoWatch, and more. Find him on Twitter @ryschlee.

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