From Antarctic tourism to Moon tourism

For this article on Space Legal Issues, let’s focus on Antarctic tourism and Moon tourism. Humanity has always wanted to conquer more and more territory. Deserts, islands, tropical forests any area that seemed liveable, have been occupied by men. On Earth, Antarctica was one of the last places that remained untouched, but step-by-step, men are colonising this land of ice. The Moon is another current challenge for the more adventurous men. Antarctica and the Moon have a lot more in common: they are both harsh, isolated and normally uninhabitable. That’s why they are a challenge, and humanity loves challenge.

Concerning Antarctic tourism and Moon tourism, a tourist is someone who is travelling for pleasure. For a long time, this kind of visitors was not able to reach Antarctica, but things are moving forward. Tourism professionals found ingenious ways to satisfy their adventurous clients. At first, it was by the sea in the fifties, and then by air, with sightseeing flights. All these activities are regulated thanks to the Antarctic Treaty (1959) and the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty (the Madrid Protocol) (1991), which require each tourism company to own a permit to visit Antarctica. The permits delivery for activities in Antarctica is organised by national legislations.

On the other hand, lunar tourism is not at this stage of development at all. Nevertheless, projects are becoming more and more concrete and the question of tourism on the Moon is no longer a mystery, but a near future. Looking at their similarities, we can suppose that the development of the tourism on the Moon will look like the one in Antarctica. By studying one, we can suppose the other. From Antarctic tourism to Moon tourism, let’s have a look!

Different places, different regulations

Each year, the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM) meets to adopt measures, decisions and resolution, which gives effect to the principles of the Antarctic Treaty. The consultative parties are legally bound by measures, contrarily to decisions and resolutions, once they have been approved. They organise the conduct of tourism professionals according to all environmental requirement, and in order to protect a scientific value of the area. Most of them are members of the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) that participates in discussions during ATCM meetings.

The Moon Treaty, or Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (entered into force in 1984), is seen as a failure because it has not been ratified by the main countries engaged in the celestial bodies exploration. However, the Outer Space Treaty or Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (entered into force in 1967) is seen as the base of space law (with the 1968 Rescue Agreement, the 1972 Liability Convention, and the 1975 Registration Convention). With the rapid development of space commercial activities, such as tourism, an evolution of this space law needs to be considered. At an international level, this evolution is difficult, that is why for the moment states choose to create their own space legislation on space commercial activities. Antarctic and space regulations are interesting to compare as much for their similarities as for their differences. Especially on the question of non-appropriation, the habits of the Antarctic regulations can help to understand the 1967 Outer Space Treaty. The Antarctic treaty has never abolished any territorial claims; they are just not valid during the validity of the treaty. In outer space, territorial claims are clearly forbidden.

A joint evolution

The environment of Antarctica gives an incredible occasion to test future space equipment. Antarctica’s bases like the French-Italian Concordia offers the best training in terms of isolation, confinement and hostility. Future Moon villages will face the same kind of inconveniences. The European Space Agency (ESA) understood that quickly, and they decided to use it as an experiment area in the base. Experiments are not only for equipment but also for the human body. Living in bases brings new health problems that we need to anticipate. In 2018, scientist studied the evolution of the human immune system in an environment where changes are rare, much like inside a spaceship; all these studies help to understand quickly the future needs of space travellers. Anticipation is one of the most important parts of all space works.

The first steps of space tourism

In September 2018, Elon Musk, via his company SpaceX, gave the name of their first private client as a Moon tourist: a Japanese businessman called Yusaku Maezawa. His trip will not be on the Moon yet, but he will fly around the Moon in a rocket named “Big Falcon Rocket” by 2023. Yusaku Maezawa plans to invite six to eight artists with him in the flight. At their return, they will have to create something to inspire humanity. To make it possible and despite the work of SpaceX on the technical part, Yusaku Maezawa and his companions will need to train. This training is the main difference between Antarctic tourism and space tourism; in Antarctica, no need for training but just organising cruises or flights to see unbelievable landscapes and to appreciate the wildlife. In space tourism, the simplest trip will require a minimum training just to make it possible for tourists to enjoy their trip.

In space, you are alone, which means you need to learn how to survive in any potential situations. An astronaut needs to train for several years and has to master a very large panel of activities like space mechanics, medicine, science, languages, survival courses… A space tourist will not need all of that to be authorized to enter the rocket, as he will supposedly be accompanied by professionals. Still, some elements will remains compulsory, such as a really good physical shape, a psychological assessment and survival courses to help space tourists to survive any problems during the trip, back on Earth, during the landing, and if they were forced to land in an inhospitable environment. Moreover, a basic medical training can be useful and space tourists need to learn how to live without gravity. A training program for space tourists does not really exist yet, Yusaku Maezawa is going to be the first one in history. His experience will help to build a general program for future space tourists.

In 2008, Richard Garriott has already been to space thanks to his company Space Adventures. He was the sixth tourist, and all five before him were clients of Space Adventures (except for a Japanese journalist). This company started to send tourists into space with the help of the Russian space program: they complete the Russian’s available seats with their clients. This is the main difference with SpaceX, which is going to use its own reusable rockets. The main private companies aiming at sending tourists to outer space are SpaceX, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic; regarding the price of space tourism, you better be really wealthy!

Outer space tourism is the first step on the road to Moon or Mars tourism. In the future, it would be possible for tourists to walk on the soil or to stay in villages on the Moon. At this point, the regulations on all those territories will need to evolve. More particularly on the notion of property: who’ll be allowed to own these Moon villages? Today, Article VIII of the Outer Space Treaty indicates that: « A State Party to the Treaty on whose registry an object launched into outer space is carried shall retain jurisdiction and control over such object, and over any personnel thereof, while in outer space or on a celestial body ». Each state has under its jurisdictions the object they register. On a Moon village scale, this would mean the jurisdiction of a state can change from one part of the village to another. Exactly like on the International Space Station.

What about private companies?

On July 20, 2016, the United States Federal Aviation Administration made the start-up Moon Express, the first private company to receive government approval for a commercial space mission on the Moon, under the requirements of the Outer Space Treaty. If a state authorises an entire base on the Moon, it could be the beginning of Moon hotels to host Moon tourists. This authorisation can be presented like the permit needed for activities in Antarctica.

What’s after Moon tourists? Moon citizens? On the schedules, scientists were the first and the rest of humanity is right behind. Having tourists in space, even if it is only reached by billionaires, announces the capability of men to conquer space after facing challenges one by one. Regarding to where men choose to put their focus and resources, the Moon could be colonised before Antarctica. Benefits on both sides could be compared; space activities already have impacts on our everyday life. Telecommunication is the best example; we made huge progress thanks to space technologies. Nevertheless, Antarctica is a great laboratory for scientists. Where do humanity dream to live the most? Maybe the answer of this dilemma is as simple as this question.

In the end, we can say that lunar tourism starts from Antarctica by different points: first of all, on the technical level, the studies carried out in Antarctica allowed a much faster progress in the space conquest. The evolution of spatial regulations, however, evolve apart from the Antarctic regulations, although it is always interesting to compare them, there are nuances between them. Antarctica and the Moon are nevertheless strategic areas to watch out for. Cooperation between countries is essential to make real progress and it is essential to be part of it.

This article From Antarctic tourism to Moon tourism was written by Alia Saadi.