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«LEGAL AND ETHICAL FRAMEWORK FOR ASTRONAUTS IN SPACE SOJOURNS Proceedings 29 October 2004 House of UNESCO 125, avenue de Suffren, Paris 7e Legal and ...»

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It is therefore inevitable that living in outer space will continue to challenge us and raise complex questions, from the protection of personal privacy to the use of pictures of astronauts and the risk to life. Questions which have far-reaching ethical and legal implications.

With two European astronaut missions to the ISS successfully completed in 2004 and one already planned for April 2005, the time is surely now ripe to thoroughly discuss and analyse "the legal and ethical framework for astronauts". Technically, it may well be still too early to talk of astronauts permanently settling and working in outer space. But this is the goal that the architects of the international space activities of the future have already set and intend to pursue.

I therefore find the idea of addressing these issues from the legal perspective and from the ethical perspective very timely. This should indeed prove to be a thought-provoking exercise. This is a good basis on which to define the common rules that will apply to a new phase in the history of human space exploration. This symposium clearly points to the need for the ethicists and the law makers to talk to each other, in order to understand the real needs of astronauts and to provide these "envoys of mankind" (as the UN Outer Space Treaty calls them) dispatched to outer space with the best solutions available to us down here on Earth.

–  –  –

Mr Chairman of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS), Mr Director General of the European Space Agency, Dean of the Faculty Jean Monnet, University of Paris XI, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a pleasure and an honour to welcome you here for this one-day symposium on the theme:

“Legal and Ethical Framework for Astronauts in Space Sojourns”.

Let me begin by thanking our co-organizers, namely, the Director General of the European Space Agency, Mr Jean-Jacques Dordain; the Chairman of the European Center for Space Law, Mr Gabriel Laferranderie; the Director of the Institut du Droit de l’Espace et des Télécommunications, Professor Philippe Achilleas; and the Dean of the Faculty Jean Monnet of the University of Paris XI, Professor Jean-Pierre Faugère.

Allow me to make some preliminary observations, which shall be brief – after all, you are the experts in this area; I am here to listen and learn, not to instruct.

Legal and ethical debates often overlap and intersect but they are not, of course, the same. Some of the differences are obvious but let me draw your attention to two in particular that seem highly relevant to the theme of this symposium. First, the reach of legal discourse may be constrained by the boundaries of the territory, terrain or ‘space’ within which legal rules apply and their enforcement is feasible. However, outer space, in all its unexplored and unknown vastness, is not susceptible to these constraints imposed by the puny hands of human law. But as we probe that vastness, we human beings take with us ethical frames of reference whose scope and relevance far exceed the bounds of legal frontiers.

This leads on to my second point. Today, we live in an expanding universe, namely, the universe of human knowledge. We are rapidly acquiring not only new knowledge but also new forms of knowledge, especially in the multiplying fields of science and technology. This knowledge explosion is giving rise to ethical questions and dilemmas for which our existing ethical codes and frameworks are ill-prepared or, quite simply, inadequate for the task. Bioethics is one such realm of ethical discourse developing at the interface with unprecedented scientific discovery, and the ethics of outer space is another.

Legal and ethical framework for astronauts in space sojourns

Without entering into specific detail about the debate on the ethics of outer space, I would like to stress the importance of how that debate is conducted. For example, I think it is very important that the debate is as broad and inclusive as possible. It must be not only wide-ranging but also public, and it must therefore be accessible to specialists and non-specialists alike.

Consequently, I am pleased that UNESCO is developing the ethical consideration of outer space as both a scientific discipline and a civic discourse. This workshop, with its broad view and multidisciplinary approach, illustrates this endeavour. Indeed, the involvement of scholars who do not belong to the space community is one of the main contributions of UNESCO to this symposium.

For more than five years now, UNESCO has been exploring the issues of ethics of outer space.

As you know, it was on the request of Mr Antonio Rodota, the former Director General of ESA, that the UNESCO’s World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology (COMEST) established a sub-commission on the ethics of outer space. One significant outcome of the work of this sub-commission was the publication of the report “The Ethics of Space Policy”, coordinated by Professor Alain Pompidou, the member of COMEST more specifically focused on the ethics of outer space.

The sub-commission of COMEST on the ethics of outer space also adopted a set of recommendations, which were in due course adopted by COMEST and more widely discussed, notably by the Legal Subcommittee of COPUOS, whose current chairman, Professor Sergio Marchisio, is among us today.





At this moment, UNESCO is working on a policy document, drawing upon a consultation process, that will consider the possibilities of international action by UNESCO. The results of this consultation will be discussed by COMEST at its fourth ordinary session, to be held in Bangkok, Thailand, in March 2005. Naturally, we welcome your views and ideas on these matters.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The great challenge we face regarding the ethics of outer space is how best to guide and orient future human action. This orientation towards the future is essential. Our purpose must be to devise an ethics of positive action and wise prevention, not an ethics of regret. Saying sorry is simply not good enough.

With these brief thoughts, let me thank you all for your interest in this issue and for engaging with UNESCO and its most valued partners in this exploration of the ethics of outer space. I extend my particular thanks to the speakers for their important contributions to this meeting. I wish you every success in your deliberations.

Thank you.

–  –  –

Depuis les temps les plus reculés de l'histoire, l'homme a toujours rêvé de s'élever dans les airs, de connaître l'espace qui l'environne et d’explorer de nouveaux mondes. Avec la conquête de l'espace, le rêve d'Icare n'a pas seulement été réalisé, mais dépassé1. Déjà, bien avant le célèbre De la Terre à la Lune de Jules Vernes (1828 - 1905) publié en 1865, Lucien de Samosate (125 - 192) écrivit au deuxième siècle les deux premiers romans de science fiction retraçant des voyages interplanétaires : Vera historia et Icaro-Menippus2. Plus tard, Léonard de Vinci (1452 - 1519), imagina des plans de machines volantes pour se lancer à la conquête de l'air. A la fin du XIX siècle, la propulsion est apparue comme l’élément clef des vols habités3.

La seconde moitié du XXème siècle sera marquée par la victoire de l’homme sur la physique et le lancement des premiers vols habités. En une décennie, l’humanité sera témoin des exploits scientifiques stimulés par la compétition technologique que se livraient les deux superpuissances dans le contexte de la guerre froide. Les soviétiques, après avoir lancé le premier satellite artificiel de la Terre, Spoutnik, le 4 octobre 1957, parviendront à mettre le premier homme sur orbite le 12 avril 1961 : Youri Gargarine (1934 - 1968). Il sera suivi le 16 juin 1963 par Valentina Terechkova (1937 - ), première femme dans l’espace. Distancés par leurs rivaux, les Etats-Unis triompheront sous l’impulsion du Président Kennedy qui, dans un discours historique prononcé devant le Congrès le 25 mai 1961, annonçait que les Etats-Unis feraient débarquer un homme sur la Lune et le ramèneraient saint et sauf avant la fin de la décennie. Le rêve de tout un peuple se réalisera le 20 juillet 1969, lorsque Neil Amstrong (1930 - ), deviendra le premier homme à fouler le sol de la Lune4.

Pour une approche historique des vols habités lire notamment : W. VON BRAUN ET F. I. ORDWAY III, History of Rocketry & Space Travel, édition révisée, New York, Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1969, 276 p.

2 Parmi les autres œuvres littéraires évoquant les voyages cosmiques citons : Le Voyage dans la Lune (1649) de Savinien de Cyrano de Bergerac (1619 - 1655) ; The Consolidator (1705) de Daniel Defoe (1660 - 1731) ; Lunar Discoveries, Extraordinary Aerial Voyage by Baron Hans Pfall (1835) d’Edgar Allan Poe (1809 – 1849) ; Voyage sur la Lune (1865) d’Alexandre Dumas père (1802 – 1870) ; Autour de la Lune (1870) de Jules Verne (1828 - 1905) ; The First Men in the Moon (1901) de Herbert George Wells (1866 - 1946). Au cinéma Georges Méliès réalisa (1861 – 1938) réalisa le premier film de science fiction en 1898 : Le rêve d’un astronome ou la Lune à un mètre.

3 Les travaux de trois scientifiques seront déterminants sur ce point : Konstantin Tsiolkovski (1857 - 1935), Robert Goddard (1882 - 1945) et Hermann Oberth (1894 - 1989).

4 Sur la course à la Lune lire notamment : A. Shepard, D. Slaton, Ils voulaient la Lune, Paris, Ifrane Editions, 1995, 391 p. ; J. VILLAIN, A la conquête de la Lune, Paris, Larousse-Bordas, 1998, 256 p. ; L. WAGENER, One Giant Leap, New York, Forge, 2004, p. 320.

–  –  –

Si les activités humaines dans l’espace se sont développées dans un cadre scientifique, elles évoluent aujourd’hui dans un contexte plus complexe marqué par des perspectives commerciales, notamment avec l’avènement de vols habités privés. Ainsi, en automne 2004, la réussite de SpaceShipOne, premier avion suborbital privé à s’élever au-dessus de 100 Km d’altitude5, ouvre l’ère du tourisme spatial à un prix abordable. Par ailleurs, si l’homme apprend à évoluer dans l’espace proche, les programmes d’exploration du système solaire annoncés par les Etats-Unis et l’Europe laissent entrevoir les perspectives de voyages de longue durée dans le cadre de missions internationales et interculturelles. En effet, en 2004, le Président Bush a présenté un programme ambitieux d’exploration spatiale6 qui prévoit d’étendre la présence de l’homme dans notre système solaire à travers un calendrier précis selon lequel une mission lunaire serait organisée d’ici 2020 en vue de la préparation de la colonisation de Mars.

Face à ces développements, le juriste doit s’interroger sur le statut de l’astronaute tel qu’il découle des accords onusiens puisqu’ils représentent l’unique cadre juridique général régissant la présence de l’homme dans l’espace (I). Par ailleurs, des règles concrètes devront être élaborées pour encadrer les activités au cours des vols habités. Les textes qui ont accompagné la construction et l’utilisation de la Station spatiale internationale représentent à ce titre un modèle incontournable (II).

I. L’astronaute dans les accords onusiens Trois des cinq traités adoptés par le Comité des utilisations pacifiques de l’espace extraatmosphérique (CUPEEA) de l’ONU intéressent principalement le statut des astronautes : le Traité sur les principes régissant les activités des Etats en matière d'exploration et d'utilisation de l'espace extra-atmosphérique, y compris la lune et les autres corps célestes du 27 janvier 19677 (ci après : Traité sur l’espace), l’Accord sur le sauvetage des astronautes, le retour des astronautes et

la restitution des objets lancés dans l'espace extra-atmosphérique du 22 avril 19688 (ci-après :

l’Accord sur les astronautes) et l’Accord sur la Lune et les autres corps célestes du 5 décembre 19799 (ci-après : accord sur la Lune). Si ces textes restent assez vagues sur la définition de l’astronaute (A), ils proposent néanmoins les éléments d’un statut international de l’astronaute (B).

A. L’absence de définition de l’astronaute

Le terme astronaute a été inventé en 1928. Le droit spatial international n’en propose aucune définition. Les traités emploient en fait diverses expressions pour désigner les hommes se trouvant dans l’espace : « astronautes »10 ; « personnel »11 ; « équipage »12 ; « représentant »13 ;

Sur SpaceShipOne lire : M. A. DORHEIM et M. CALIF, « SpaceShipWon », Aviation Week & Space Technology, 11 octobre 2004, pp. 34-36 ; A. D. SZAMES et A. MUSQUERE, « Le SpaceShipOne vainqueur du X-Prize », Air & Cosmos, 8 octobre 2004, pp. 28-29.

6 La vision du Président Bush est présentée dans deux documents de référence : le document adopté par la NASA en février 2004 intitulé The Vision for Space Exploration, et le rapport du Président de la Commission sur la mise en oeuvre la politique américaine d’exploration spatiale publié en juin 2004 intitulé A Journey to Inspire, Innovate, and Discover.

RTNU, volume 610, p. 205 RTNU, volume 612, p. 119.

9 RTNU, volume 1363, p. 3.

10 Article V du Traité sur l’espace de 1967 et titre et préambule de l’Accord sur le sauvetage de 1968.

11 Article VIII du Traité sur l’espace de 1967 ; articles 3 § 4, 6 § 3, 8 § 2, 9 §2, 11 § 3 et 12 § 1 de l’accord sur la Lune de 1978.

–  –  –

« personne se trouvant à bord d’un objet spatial »14 ; « personne se trouvant sur la Lune »15 et « envoyé de l’humanité »16. Il ressort de ces différentes formulations que l’astronaute désigne toute personne envoyée dans l’espace (1) et qu’il est considéré comme un envoyé de l’humanité (2).

1. L’astronaute désigne toute personne envoyée dans l'espace



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