Whose fault was it that an asteroid hit a spider?

International Court of Justice president comes to Israel to decide theoretical scenario.

By
October 18, 2015 02:47
3 minute read.
space law

INTERNATIONAL COURT of Justice President Peter Tomka (center) and ICJ Judges Dalveer Bhandari (left) and Kirill Gevorgian attend the space law competition in the capital. (photo credit: YONAH JEREMY BOB)

Who was responsible that an asteroid hit the country of spider (actually spelled “spidr”) killing dozens of people in the town of Dropgum? According to the decision by International Court of Justice President Peter Tomka of Slovakia, and his two co-judges, Dalveer Bhandari of India and Kirill Gevorgian of Russia, on Thursday, the country of URA was not responsible for the deaths of Dropgum’s residents.

What dark fantasy is this referring to? While the ICJ judges historic trip to Israel (a visit is not an endorsement but it does not hurt), hearing of oral arguments and decision was real, this theoretical scenario was part of a space law competition hosted by Israel as part of the International Astronautical Congress held at the Jerusalem International Convention Center last week.

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The finals of the space law competition took place hours before the ICJ judges’ decision on Thursday, with the two finalists, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, and the University of Mississippi School of Law, facing off with phasers and light sabers blazing.

The Athens team represented the country of SPIDR, whose town of Dropgum (a play on Gumdrop – the name of the Apollo 9 Command/Service Module that orbited the earth in 1969) was obliterated when the country of URA’s robotic space vehicle failed to deflect an asteroid from hitting the Earth and Dropgum.

In fact, according to the Athens team, had URA not intervened, the asteroid was most likely to land in an ocean bordering on both SPIDR and URA causing no damage, even as its trajectory did present some danger to URA.

Accordingly, the Athens team argued that URA had exacerbated the situation just to shift any risk from itself to SPIDR by intervening and was liable for the wrongful deaths of its citizens in Dropgum.

Feel like you’ve been sucked into a black hole sci-fi nightmare? That is only half the story relating to the fictional Moon Agreement on planetary defense against asteroids.

The real and existing Outer Space Treaty prohibits placing or testing weapons of mass destruction in space and states that no government can claim a celestial body as they are common heritage to mankind. But back to the competition.

The Mississippi team countered that though one possibility included the asteroid landing harmlessly in the ocean bordering the two countries, other scenarios could involve endangering the entire Earth, including a massive tsunami inflicting much more massive destruction on SPIDR than had actually occurred.

They conceded that URA had failed to deflect the asteroid, but claimed both that it could not be held accountable for a preexisting natural danger and that the method it had used to deflect the asteroid, trying to speed up its trajectory, was the most widely suggested method for addressing such a threat.

Other alternatives suggested by Athen’s team were less accepted and in any event, its opponents had a necessity defense of having needed to try to deflect the calamity-bearing asteroid.

The arguments of C.J. Robison and Ian Perry of Mississippi carried the day, making them space law’s world champions this year, though Athen’s Athanios Plexidas won best oralist.

As much as this sounds like an alternate universe or timeline, as Supreme Court Vice President Elyakim Rubinstein, in attendance for the arguments, said, the scenario “includes regular law, like tort law, as well as space law” and is not as far-fetched as it sounds with there being “no boundary to human creation.”

Despite the twilight-zone-like scenario, Rubinstein remarked that with the current wave of violence “sometimes it feels that the chaos is bigger on Earth than in space.”

The Supreme Court vice president also said he was “glad everyone came,” as he had been “worried about cancellations” due to the attacks. (The site of the event was changed at the last minute from an outside of conference center location to remain in the conference center.) Rubinstein concluded that “even in outer space, you need the rule of law.”

Coming soon to a space-station near you.


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