Space law has been around since before Sputnik and the space race, but with new companies growing and booming, the legal structure in outer space needs to be revisited.
John Bergstresser, JD’20, is paving his path to be a space lawyer, and a force in the development of new policies, laws and agreements related to space, and he’s already gotten a taste of it.
Bergstresser participated in the GOAL program, and spent a semester in Washington, D.C., where he interned with the U.S. House of Representatives. During his internship, Bergstresser played an instrumental role in the creation of the book Compilation of Space Law – U.S. and International Space Law Documents and Agreements.
The book was prepared at the request of U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas, chairwoman for the Committee
on Science, Space and Technology, and the Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee. It includes all U.S. law and international obligations, treaties, registrations, rescues and other convention agreements related to space, as well as an interpretation in regard to the Vienna Convention.
The previous book had not been updated in more than 20 years. Since then, there have been many technological advances in this area. To create the book, Bergstresser was tasked with compiling federal and international space law documents for publication and formatting, editing and providing commentary throughout the publication. The book developed by Bergstresser will help policymakers create new laws and revisit existing laws that may need to be changed.
“(Space law) is going to be very interesting in the next decade or so,” Bergstresser says. “The technological advances we have done will further the questions, What property rights do people have in space? How does it conflict with current treaties we have?”
Bergstresser gives one example of asteroid mining. Laws need to be established to determine property rights to mine, extract and use what resources are on asteroids and other celestial bodies.
In addition to his work with the House, he received a grant from the NASA Nebraska Space Grant program to go to Washington, D.C., for the Space Law Conference to learn about issues in the area of law.
Bergstresser hopes to one day be a lawyer for the Space Force or the Air Force.