Outer space - the final frontier for law

University of Otago PhD candidate Maria Pozza is heading off to Cambridge University next year after she was awarded a fellowship for her research into law in outer space. Photo by Linda Robertson.
University of Otago PhD candidate Maria Pozza is heading off to Cambridge University next year after she was awarded a fellowship for her research into law in outer space. Photo by Linda Robertson.

A University of Otago PhD candidate researching arms control in outer space was ''blown away'' when asked to spend two months at Cambridge University to study the topic further.

Maria Pozza was awarded a fellowship from the Cambridge University's Lauterpacht Centre for International Law and intends to take up the position next August after finishing her doctorate ''The International Law and Policy of Outer Space: A New Perspective on Arms control''.

Ms Pozza said she intended to spend the two months at Cambridge having a further look at some of the questions she had raised while studying towards her doctorate.

One of the reasons she decided to study the topic was the lack of law when it came to governing outer space, including in the area of arms control.

This raised several issues, as while the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 banned nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction from space, there was a ''grey area'' when it came to what else could be defined as a weapon in space.

For instance, there was a question as to whether GPS satellites used by the military to identify bombing targets should be defined as weapons, she said.

This lack of law created problems, highlighted by North Korea's launch of a satellite into space last week, which was condemned by the international community as a military act.

Ms Pozza said she would propose solutions in her PhD, which was due for submission in July next year.

She had also examined New Zealand's involvement in the formation of international space law New Zealand punched above its weight when it came to helping create adequate space law, she said.

vaughan.elder@odt.co.nz