08 October 2012. Issue 62 of the ESPI Perspectives series examines the concept “Envoys of Mankind” and its aptness in a time of arising commercial human spaceflight. After having outlined the historical context of this particular term given to astronauts in the early days of human space exploration, the author addresses the various forms of space tourism based upon the nature of the activity; the applicability of international and national space law to commercial human space flight; and the definition of envoy of mankind.
In the past half-century, access to outer space was limited to a select few that were deemed to have the right qualifications. Today, meeting these standards is no longer necessary in reaching the edge of Earth, as now affluent private individuals can participate in outer space travel. In theory, with sufficient funding, anyone can reach space via commercial spaceflight, and claim the title of ‘astronaut’ with qualifications that are no greater than the first creature that was launched into space. With this new entrant in outer space, should we still consider astronauts to be ‘envoys of mankind’, as described in Article V of the Outer Space Treaty; and can space tourists gain that title? From the Outer Space Treaty, in benefiting mankind, must that astronaut be working as an agent of a State Party; and is the answer dependant on the activity to be conducted? Next, where do sub-orbital flights fit within these international space instruments? And does that answer require a delimitation of airspace and outer space? Moreover, which approach is needed in determining the appropriate legal regime?