With the landing of the Mars Curiosity rover on Monday, the United States is taking seriously the possibility of extraterrestrial life and human expansion into outer space. Luckily, should that day come, we won’t be leaving too much up to chance.
In fact, there is already a whole body of legal studies dedicated to protecting our interests in space. It's a field which in recent years has been growing both here and abroad.
They’re called 'space lawyers' and they litigate everything from the liabilities of so-called 'space tourists,' to the legal framework for possible extraterrestrial encounter, to sovereignty rights for lunar mining.
Joanne Irene Gabrynowicz is director of the National Center for Remote Sensing, Air, and Space Law, at the University of Mississippi.