SpaceX Starlink fine print reads Mars is a free planet

Posted on Wednesday, Feb 24 2021 @ 09:55 CET by Thomas De Maesschalck
SpaceX logo
Without a doubt, Elon Musk will be remembered as one of the greatest minds of our time. Not only did he almost single-handedly push the car industry to the electric drivetrain, but he also revolutionized the space industry by coming up with a new generation of relatively cheap and reusable rockets.

But being in the space launch industry is not Musk's real ambition. As is well known, setting up a colony on Mars is the true dream of the South African-born entrepreneur. A lot of money is required to reach Mars and launching payloads into space is just a piece of the puzzle to reach his goal.

SpaceX is currently using its low-cost access to space to set up the world's first constellation of low-Earth orbit (LEO) Internet satellites. Up until now, satellite Internet has a lot of drawbacks, primarily because it uses geostationary satellites that are located a lot further from Earth than what SpaceX has in mind. Eventually, SpaceX aims to launch tens of thousands of small Starlink satellites into orbit, to provide very fast, low-latency Internet access to every corner of the world.

At the moment, SpaceX has 1,081 operational satellites deployed and the company is starting to roll out early access to its satellite Internet. Users signing up for a pre-order are seeing curious paragraphs in the small print on Starlink. In particular, SpaceX points out that services provided to Mars will be handled through self-governing principles. The rocket firm claims Mars is a free planet and that no Earth-based government has authority or sovereignty over Martian activities. This section also covers Starlink use when in transit to Mars:
Spotted by Register reader Amarinder Brar during his UK application for the system, an intriguing section in the pre-order agreement warns that disputes related to "Services provided to, on, or in orbit around the planet Earth or the Moon" are governed by English law and "subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales."

Mars, on the other hand, is a completely different kettle of fish. SpaceX is asking that those wanting a Martian connection to Starlink "recognize Mars as a free planet and that no Earth-based government has authority or sovereignty over Martian activities."

The rule also applies when in transit to Mars "via Starship or other spacecraft."
The Register reports the odd fine print goes against Article VI the 1967 Outer Space Treaty. At least in theory, any future Martian activities of SpaceX fall under the liability of the US government.

About the Author

Thomas De Maesschalck

Thomas has been messing with computer since early childhood and firmly believes the Internet is the best thing since sliced bread. Enjoys playing with new tech, is fascinated by science, and passionate about financial markets. When not behind a computer, he can be found with running shoes on or lifting heavy weights in the weight room.

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