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Exopolitics: Should Mars Be Independent, or Just a Colony Of Earth?

21st Century Wire asks…

How will we colonize Mars? One thing is certain: any new colony would be immediately dependent on Earth’s resources and people for its survival, and therefore, it would also fall under Earth’s political purview as well. But is this really the best solution for a new world?

In Ridley Scott’s science fiction classic Blade Runner, based on the novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick, the term “Off-World Colonies” refers to the human colonization of Planet Earth’s Orbital Space and planets beyond – including Mars and Arcadia 234. Earth’s Off-World Colonies are defended by Space Marines who are a branch of the United States Colonial Marine Corps and other military forces. Just because the United States appears to be the dominant force on Earth, does this mean it should also be in charge of a new planetary colony?

This is just one of the many off-world questions and as yet unknown exopolitical issues which will arise once mankind is able to finally expand into the outer realms of space.

It’s never too early to start asking the fundamental questions of social organization and jurisdiction, and pondering what are otherwise the earthly issues that will one day also be relevant on the Red Planet…

Sarah Fecht
Popular Mechanic

It’s a popular sci-fi plot: Earth sets up colonies on Mars; Mars colonies grow, developing their own technologies and culture; Mars colonies rebel against overbearing Earth government, demanding independence. It happens in Total Recall, in Babylon 5, in Red Mars.

But what if we gave Mars its independence right from the get-go? Rather than giving future colonies to governments or corporations, Jacob Haqq-Misra thinks we should let Martian colonists develop their own values, governments, and technologies, with minimal interference from Earth. Haqq-Misra is an astrobiologist at the Blue Marble Space Institute of Science, a non-profit organization that promotes international unity in space.

1-Mars-NASA
Mars Colony (Image Source: Illustration by Chipped Tooth)

Not only would Haqq-Misra’s strategy preclude any Martian wars for independence, but cultural independence could help Martians think differently enough to solve problems that Earth continues to struggle with—such as working together to fight global environmental problems, or making long-term plans for the future of humanity.

“Maybe Mars is more valuable in trying to seed the second incidence of civilization.”

Instead of getting divided by nations or plundered by industry, says Haqq-Misra, “maybe Mars is more valuable in trying to seed the second incidence of civilization.”

A Free Mars

The plan that Haqq-Misra lays out in an essay in New Space has five main provisions:

  1. Humans who leave Earth to permanently settle on Mars relinquish their planetary citizenship as Earthlings and claim a planetary citizenship as Martians.
  2. Governments, corporations, and individuals of Earth cannot engage in commerce with Mars and cannot interfere with the political, cultural, economic, or social development of Martian civilization.
  3. Scientific exploration may continue as long as it does not interfere with the development of civilization on Mars. Sharing of research and information between Mars and Earth is permitted only to pursue mutual scientific or educational goals.
  4. The use of land on Mars will be determined exclusively by the citizens of Mars. No Earthlings may own or otherwise lay claim to land on Mars.
  5. Any technology, resources, or other objects brought from Earth to Mars become permanent fixtures of the Martian civilization. Earthlings may not make any demands for resources on Mars.

You Can’t Own Mars, But You Can Rule A Colony

There is some legal precedent for the idea. The 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which 103 nations (including the U.S. and Russia) are party to, prohibits any nation from claiming territory in space. The treaty “makes very clear that a colony on Mars could never become a colony in the classical legal sense of the word, like the U.S. was originally a colony of the U.K.,” says Frans von der Dunk, a space law professor at the University of Nebraska.

Nevertheless, under the current legal system, von der Dunk says American colonists on Mars would still probably fall under U.S. jurisdiction.

Sailors in international waters are expected to follow the rules of their ship’s flag, and astronauts must do the same. The rules even hold when they’re not on board the ship—for example, when the Apollo astronauts roamed around the moon, or when astronauts on the International Space Station do spacewalks, they’re still subject to U.S. laws.

But what about when the excursion is longer than a few hours? On the ISS, where astronauts spend months at a time, participating countries have worked up their own quasi legal system, which is pretty similar to Earth’s. If an American astronaut were to hit a Russian astronaut over the head, for example, first the U.S. would have the right to determine whether a criminal act was committed. If the U.S. doesn’t take action, then he could be tried under Russian jurisdiction.

The rules could be different when we’re talking about pioneers who venture to another planet with no intention of returning home. Still, says von der Dunk, “You cannot simply say ‘I’m no longer a citizen of the U.S.’ It’s not for you to decide.”

Nevertheless, under the current legal system, von der Dunk says American colonists on Mars would still probably fall under U.S. jurisdiction.

Sailors in international waters are expected to follow the rules of their ship’s flag, and astronauts must do the same. The rules even hold when they’re not on board the ship—for example, when the Apollo astronauts roamed around the moon, or when astronauts on the International Space Station do spacewalks, they’re still subject to U.S. laws.

But what about when the excursion is longer than a few hours? On the ISS, where astronauts spend months at a time, participating countries have worked up their own quasi legal system, which is pretty similar to Earth’s. If an American astronaut were to hit a Russian astronaut over the head, for example, first the U.S. would have the right to determine whether a criminal act was committed. If the U.S. doesn’t take action, then he could be tried under Russian jurisdiction.

The rules could be different when we’re talking about pioneers who venture to another planet with no intention of returning home. Still, says von der Dunk, “You cannot simply say ‘I’m no longer a citizen of the U.S.’ It’s not for you to decide.”

Cultural (R)evolution

Von der Dunk thinks that if Americans are able to set up self-sustaining communities on Mars, they’ll consider themselves Americans and abide by U.S. laws—at least at first. “At some point in time, they will not like that anymore,” he says. “They won’t feel like they are American or Russian or wherever they come from, they’ll feel like they are Martian. They will say, ‘Listen, we don’t want to pay taxes anymore, and we want to develop our own legal system.’”

Cultural evolution is inevitable in small populations that splinter off from Earth. A lot of Earthly traditions just won’t apply, and the Martians will develop their own jokes, rules, and customs. Haqq-Misra’s suggestion of limiting contact with Earth would simply speed up that transition.

Von der Dunk thinks it would be difficult to set up a colony as a blank slate, as Haqq-Misra proposes. Mars colonists would carry with them a lot of legal and cultural baggage that biases their ideas about how society should work. But over time, Martian culture could change dramatically. “It’s hard to think outside the box there, but one could think that because Mars is so different from Earth, that when they tear themselves away from traditional legal structures, they could develop something very new,” says von der Dunk. “This is all very hypothetical.”…

Continue this article at Popular Science

READ MORE NASA NEWS AT: 21st Century NASA Files

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