CSU Prof will Work on Laws of Space with UN Delegation

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Even without the survival of Earth hanging in the balance, Mark Sundahl thinks the kinds of space conflicts he works on are pretty exciting.

"The most interesting question right now is whether to regulate, and to what extent to regulate, this new space tourism industry," he said.

Sundahl is a space law expert and the associate dean of Cleveland State University’s law school. The State Department has named him to represent industry as an adviser to the US delegation to the United Nations Committee on – believe it or not – the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.

As private companies compete in a new space race, Sundahl said there’s a need for a solid legal framework to set the ground rules.

"It’s the classic debate about ensuring the safety of the space-flight participants, as they’re called – that is, the passengers – while not overburdening these companies that are doing the most incredible, innovative technological development," he said.

Another pressing issue in space law is space junk – defunct space gadgets that float around, threatening working space gadgets, like communications satellites and the International Space Station, Sundahl said. Some nations are better stewards than others, and the UN provides a forum for setting standards of good behavior as space becomes a busier place.

Sundahl said he got into space law about 10 years ago, through work in international finance. He helped draft a treaty on financing for satellites, then got hooked on a field of law that was just starting to develop.

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