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!: