🚀 What would’ve happened if China’s rocket fell on your house? Introducing the latest in space law 

You may have heard a few weeks ago about a massive piece of a Chinese rocket falling back toward the earth. There was an unlikely chance that it might strike a populated area and cause some major damage. 

The rocket ended up crashing into water near the Maldives. But what if something bad would’ve happened? 

  • Space law expert Timiebi Aganaba broke it down in the WaPo: For crash landings, it’s a matter of diplomacy, thanks to the 1967 Outer Space Treaty. Had the rocket destroyed your property, the U.S. would’ve had to take legal action against China. As an individual, you would have to depend on the two countries resolving a claim. 

  • And space debris has never hit someone’s house: It has fallen on land, though, including in Canada and Western Australia, and countries have reached settlements -- sometimes with controversy. The Soviet Union, for instance, only paid Canada $3 million for what was a $14 million cleanup.

The trickier questions are about the space junk that never falls to the earth

China’s malfunctioning rocket is far from the only piece of debris hovering in the upper realms of the atmosphere, and there are no defined punitive measures for countries or corporations littering the cosmos, making it a tragedy of the commons situation.   

The Verdict

Aganaba said we should think of space law like environmental law and start to think of space debris as something that can harm something far bigger than a house.