It was in 1954 that the French anti-UFO Municipal Law, the anti-flying saucer decree, was voted in Châteauneuf-du-Pape (City Council), a commune in the Vaucluse department in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region in south-eastern France. What it the first Space Law text in history?
Municipal Law is the law specific to a particular city or county (known legally as a “municipality”), and the government bodies within those cities or counties. This can cover a wide range of issues, including everything from police power, zoning, education policies, and property taxes.
The French anti-UFO Municipal Law is undoubtedly both the most wacky and most respected Municipal Law of Vaucluse. UFOs (Unidentified Flying Objects) are not allowed to fly over or park in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Sixty years later, the mayor continues to defend this text.
The French anti-UFO Municipal Law of 1954
On October 25, 1954, the mayor of the French Châteauneuf-du-Pape commune, Lucien Jeune, issued a police order prohibiting “The overflight, landing and take-off of aircraft, so-called flying saucers or flying cigars on the communal territory”.
On Thursday, October 28, 1954, the French newspaper L’Aurore reported that Lucien Jeune, mayor of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, following numerous UFO sightings, took a municipal decree: the French anti-UFO Municipal Law of 1954. The next day, on October 29th, the decree is reported by the French newspapers Le Haut-Marnais républicain and Le Méridional.
In 2016, Lucien Jeune’s son, Élie Jeune, recalled: “My father had this idea of this idea of municipal by-law at a convention with other mayors of France. At that time, there was a lot of talks about aliens and UFOs; it was fashionable. Great stories were circulating. My father had the idea to use it to advertise the commune of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. It was a free and awesome publicity…”.
Offenders will be verbalised by the country guard, says the text. And their gear will be confiscated and returned to the pound. This crazy decision was never questioned… So it is officially still in force. “I will not touch it”, says Claude Avril, the current mayor of Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
Definition of Municipal Law
Most attorneys who handle Municipal Law cases are hired by the municipalities themselves. The attorneys may even work as corporate counsel for the cities, which means that the attorney works for that particular city exclusively. Local city or town councils are primarily responsible for creating Municipal Law. Since council members are elected from the town’s residents, local residents have great control over Municipal Law, which can vary greatly between municipalities.
Are extraterrestrials among us?
From the Renaissance, myths fed the collective imagination. It became popular with the conquest of outer space in the 1960s, and the proliferation of science-fictional stories. Extraterrestrials would have already visited the Earth, established a secret colony to spy on us, and leave us in peace while we grow.
Difficult, however, to cross and identify us in a universe as vast and old as ours. While the planet is four and a half billion years old, we have been able to receive and emit signals for only a hundred years. One of the most famous program concerning extraterrestrial life is SETI. The search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) is a collective term for scientific searches for intelligent extraterrestrial life, for example, monitoring electromagnetic radiation for signs of transmissions from civilisations on other planets. Scientific investigation began shortly after the advent of radio in the early 1900s, and focused international efforts have been going on since the 1980s. Have we ever managed to make contact with them? Given the number of exoplanets and galaxies, could there be, at least, other forms of intelligent and more evolved lives?
For the French astrophysicist Jean Duprat, the extraterrestrials are a priori not among us. “If they ever were among us, if we ever had signs, we would talk about it among scientists, we would observe that, it would not be a secret”. “But for the moment we have absolutely no sign of not only an extraterrestrial life on Earth that would be among us, but even an extraterrestrial life elsewhere”. Is extraterrestrial life other than on Earth plausible? “It’s quite a scientific question, given the number of stars that there is”. “There is no reason that life only developed on Earth”. “The Milky Way contains two hundred to four hundred billion stars, and we know that most of these stars are surrounded by planets, so that’s about one hundred billion planets. Among all these planets, there must be some who are likely to have conditions for life to develop. Now the question is: did life develop in extraterrestrial environments? For the moment, we do not know, since the only life we know is on Earth”.
Are there any clues that would suggest that this extraterrestrial life exists? “The elementary bricks of life must exist on other planets”. Why weren’t we found by extraterrestrials? “The planet is four and a half billion years old, and our species appeared about one hundred thousand years ago”. “Our species is able to look at space only since the recently”. “During most of its life, Earth was inhabited mainly by bacteria, unicellular organisms, small algae in the ocean; life on our planet was not looking towards outer space and we couldn’t then emit any signals”. Are we more likely to find a technologically advanced extraterrestrial life? “We have absolutely no indication that a technological life can appear elsewhere. The other very important point with this, in relation to extraterrestrial life, is how long this technological life can hold”.
Could we be extraterrestrials? “Our matter is extraterrestrial, it comes from outer space. Our atoms, our nuclei… it all comes from outer space. But then, the human species appeared on Earth only very recently; our species is clearly a part of an evolution of a great apes branch. We are the result of an evolution which happened on Earth”.
Space Law and extraterrestriality
The founding text concerning Space Law and extraterrestriality is found in Article IX of the 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 on October 10, 1967) which states that “In the exploration and use of outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, States Parties to the Treaty shall be guided by the principle of cooperation and mutual assistance and shall conduct all their activities in outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, with due regard to the corresponding interests of all other States Parties to the Treaty. States Parties to the Treaty shall pursue studies of outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, and conduct exploration of them so as to avoid their harmful contamination and also adverse changes in the environment of the Earth resulting from the introduction of extraterrestrial matter and, where necessary, shall adopt appropriate measures for this purpose. If a State Party to the Treaty has reason to believe that an activity or experiment planned by it or its nationals in outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, would cause potentially harmful interference with activities of other States Parties in the peaceful exploration and use of outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, it shall undertake appropriate international consultations before proceeding with any such activity or experiment. A State Party to the Treaty which has reason to believe that an activity or experiment planned by another State Party in outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, would cause potentially harmful interference with activities in the peaceful exploration and use of outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, may request consultation concerning the activity or experiment”.
The 1967 Outer Space Treaty and the 1979 Moon Agreement both use the terms extraterrestrial matter or extraterrestrial materials: “to avoid their harmful contamination and also adverse changes in the environment of the Earth resulting from the introduction of extraterrestrial matter”, “does not apply to extraterrestrial materials which reach the surface of the Earth by natural means”, and “avoid harmfully affecting the environment of the Earth through the introduction of extraterrestrial matter or otherwise”. In Space Law, we call this concept “Planetary Protection”.
Planetary protection is a field concerned with keeping actual or possible zones of life pure and unspoiled. A planet’s biosphere is its complete zone of life, its global ecological system, and includes all its living organisms as well as all organic matter that has not yet decomposed. Planetary protection, which mainly focuses on microbial life and on potentially invasive species, is essential for several reasons: to preserve our ability to study other worlds as they exist in their natural states; to avoid contamination that would obscure our ability to find life elsewhere – if it exists; and to ensure that we take prudent precautions to protect Earth’s biosphere in case it does.
Typically, planetary protection is divided into two major components, two types of interplanetary contamination (biological contamination of a planetary body by a space probe or spacecraft, either deliberate or unintentional). Forward contamination is the transfer of viable organisms from Earth to another celestial body; it is prevented primarily by sterilising the spacecraft. Back contamination is the transfer of extraterrestrial organisms, if such exist, back to the Earth’s biosphere. Non-biological forms of contamination have also been considered (objects left on the Moon or Moon Junk). Current space missions are governed by the Outer Space Treaty and the COSPAR guidelines for planetary protection.