Regulation

California to Let Early Space Adventurers Kill Themselves, As Long As They Are Informed About Risks

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virgin galactic

Good news for the private space industry in California, where Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed a bill on Friday limiting the liability of private space companies:

"California aerospace pioneers like Virgin Galactic, SpaceX and the Spaceship Company are blazing a path to the stars with commercial space travel," Brown said in a statement. "This bill allows commercial space-travel companies to innovate and explore without the worry of excessive liability."

In this, California follows the lead of the federal Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act, which treats space adventurers more like scuba divers or paragliders than airline passengers. Space companies are still liable for harm caused to bystanders, but for the guys and gals who choose to suit up and ship out, informed consent is all that's required. 

So why is California going out of its way to offer a space-company friendly environment? The reasoning is right there in Section 1 of the legislation, A.B. 2243:

Over the past few decades, California has lost much of its human space flight industry to other states, such as Alabama, Colorado, Florida, New Mexico, and Texas.

It's nice to see states competing to be more business-friendly, without actually writing enormous checks to bribe companies to locate within their boundaries. California joins Florida, Texas, and Virginia in taking the extra step to limit liability within the state. New Mexico and Colorado are working on similar legislation.

Here's what Caifornia-nauts will have to sign before taking off:

"WARNING AND ACKNOWLEDGMENT: I understand and acknowledge that, under California law, there is no civil liability for bodily injury, including death, emotional injury, or property damage, sustained by a participant as a result of the inherent risks associated with space flight activities provided by a space flight entity. I have given my informed consent to participate in space flight activities after receiving a description of the inherent risks associated with space flight activities, as required by federal law pursuant to Section 50905 of Title 51 of the United States Code and Section 460.45 of Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations. The consent that I have given acknowledges that the inherent risks associated with space flight activities include, but are not limited to, risk of bodily injury, including death, emotional injury, and property damage. I understand and acknowledge that I am participating in space flight activities at my own risk. I have been given the opportunity to consult with an attorney before signing this statement."

Because sometimes it takes a little bodily injury, including death, emotional injury, and property damage to get things done. Take it away, Robert Zubrin!:

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  1. So if they accidentally drop an asteroid on Sacramento, no worries?

  2. Space companies are still liable for harm caused to bystanders, but for the guys and gals who choose to suit up and ship out, informed consent is all that’s required.

    What about those of us innocently minding our own business when the giant space ants these spaceniks alert to Earth’s presence come down and enslave us to toil in their underground sugar caves? Do we get compensated?

    1. I for one welcome our new insect overlords.

    2. First question to ask all aliens:

      Do you taste like chicken?

      1. Question 2: Do we taste like chicken to you?

    3. “Is this going to be a stand up fight or another bug hunt?”

      1. How do I get out of this chickenshit outfit?

        1. You secure that shit, Hudson!

    4. Isn’t the promise of sexy space ants who want you in their sugar caves compensation enough?

  3. What if the cosmic rays give you superpowers? Does that fall under bodily injury?

    1. Actually, I think the carriers will place a surcharge for that. Kind of like ordering a drink on a plane.

      “Ok sir, we have two gin and tonics, one cheese plate and x-ray vision. That will $375 please”

    2. Only if you become The Thing.

  4. Being cynical, this just means the lawsuits will be filed in the home state of the deceased/injured.

  5. “This bill allows commercial space-travel companies to innovate and explore without the worry of excessive liability”

    A pity that approach doesn’t take in other fields – think of the boom you’d see in a state that just went with:

    Our state allows _____________ companies to innovate and explore without the worry of excessive liability

    1. Yeah, and why doesn’t the state allow drivers to drive on state roads however dangerously they want to and damage as much property as they want, and not have the worry of excessive liability?

      Limited liability is in my opinion the worst of all market distortions because it socializes risk and incentivizes violations of individual rights.

      1. Depends. This appears to still protect bystanders, but not the people choosing to participate. Where are the violations of individual rights there?

  6. Hey, government is good for something after all.

  7. Q: If you can’t take a little bloody nose, maybe you ought to go back home and crawl under your bed. It’s not safe out here. It’s wondrous, with treasures to satiate desires both subtle and gross. But it’s not for the timid.

  8. “This bill allows commercial space-travel companies to innovate and explore without the worry of excessive liability.”

    I’m actually OK with this. If only more situations would allow the acknowledgement of the assumption of risk.

  9. “It’s nice to see states competing to be more business-friendly, without actually writing enormous checks to bribe companies to locate within their boundaries. California joins Florida, Texas, and Virginia in taking the extra step to limit liability within the state. New Mexico and Colorado are working on similar legislation.”

    In what way is artificially limiting liability even a remotely free market concept? Who gets to pay for the damages if they exceed the value of the company? I can’t stand to see libertarians defend government-created moral hazards. If business owners are unwilling to shoulder the full cost of their business or buy insurance to offset this cost, perhaps they shouldn’t be in business.

    1. “informed consent” means something, P.

  10. And why does there need to be a law? Why can’t the company sign a liability contract with their own employees if that’s their primary concern?

    1. Because liability contracts have been evaded post facto before?

      1. This is what I’m assuming the law is there to address.

  11. The real reason for the new California law:

    The new Mars One reality show! Participant selection is first, followed by training.

    http://mars-one.com/en/about-m…..t-mars-one

    Mars One is a private, apolitical organization whose intent is to establish a colony on Mars through the integration of existing, readily available technologies from industry leaders world-wide. Unique in its approach, Mars One intends to fund this decade-long endeavor through an interactive, reality TV style broadcast from astronaut selection to robotic construction of the outpost; from the seven month flight through the first years on Mars.

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