Back in 1966, we’d barely taken our first spacewalks. But already, one attorney was thinking ahead.

The book Magna Carta Of Space was almost included in the British Library’s exhibition of 200 items relating to Magna Carta (the foundation for the rule of law in Britain, signed in 1215.) Aviation lawyer William A. Hyman attempted to codify a set of laws for space travel, in a lavishly illustrated book that he described as “a humanitarian bill of rights for the world; the first complete statement of the principles of space law in skeletal form to appear anywhere.”

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As the British Library blog notes, the book was well reviewed in Life Magazine, and influenced the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space in Geneva, later that year.

The British Library’s Alex Lock explains:

As outer space exploration was unprecedented, it was unclear what issues lawyers might face when legislating for the ‘final frontier’ and what, if any, jurisdiction they had for imposing an intergalactic law code. Furthermore, as so little was known about space, it was largely up to the legislators’ imagination as to what might be legislated for, forcing them to consider unique questions in the history of jurisprudence.

  • Do aliens have legal rights?
  • Who owns the stars, planets and moons?
  • Where does Space begin and a nation’s airspace end?
  • What is the role of private industry in Space?
  • Who will allocate radio frequencies and set standard time?

Read more over at the British Library blog. [h/t Kelly!]