What would happen if an astronaut assaulted a spacewalking colleague, deliberately set fire to the International Space Station or decided to take their Dragon capsule for an illicit spin around planet Earth – all on the far side of the Karman line and seemingly beyond the jurisdiction of planet Earth?
Handling crime in space is actually covered by a similar sort of international, frontier-type legislation that governs Antarctica. Under the United Nation’s Office for Outer Space Affairs – yes, this really exists: principle 8 of resolution 1962 (XVIII) of the **deep breath** ‘Outer Space Treaty Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies’ states that:
“Each State which launches or procures the launching of an object into outer space, and each State from whose territory or facility an object is launched, is internationally liable for damage to a foreign State or to its natural or juridical persons by such object or its component parts on the earth, in air space, or in outer space.”
In other words, you’d be arrested and tried once you get back home, as if you had committed the crime on Earth. That is, assuming you even want to return knowing the potential prison sentence that you face. Until the space police’s response time becomes markedly better than the months of planning it takes to get a basic launch into orbit, your extra-terrestrial joyride could go completely unhindered for a very long time indeed.
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