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Law Students with specific interest in astronomy can excel in Space Law

published June 05, 2006

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"Apparently, there are significant opportunities in space law," J.B. Milliken, UNL President, said in an interview with the Lincoln Journal Star. "There's not really a U.S. university leading the way."

Lawyers skilled in the practice of space law would be able to play an integral part in the regulation of outer space and the dividing up of mineral reserves between various countries; and with more and more cell phone satellites being launched into space, the realm of space law is sure to expand.

The idea for the UNL program came from some talks Milliken had with different U.S. Strategic Command leaders about how best to strengthen the ties between the university and Offutt Air Force Base, the nearby military base. The Strategic Command leaders are in charge of directing the military's space operations. During the talks, Milliken was told that America needs more attorneys educated and skilled in the area of space law.

Milliken is on a consultation committee with the Strategic Command leaders; and in 2005, he helped the university build a stronger relationship with StratCom. A partnership between the two would benefit the school in the areas of business, information technology, and leadership training. Another benefit would be the school's ability to use some of the military budget in its research and education programs.

Milliken told the Lincoln Journal Star that the university is perfect for the study of space law because of its location near Offutt; and when he presented the idea for the program to Steve Willborn, dean of the law school, and Harvey Perlman, UNL chancellor, both were interested.

Currently, a proposal is in the works that will be presented to the university's board of regents, and the school could begin making space law classes available to its students as early as August.

"We're not quite ready to talk about the proposal," Willborn told the Lincoln Journal Star. "We're working on it, and we're hopeful of doing something starting next year."

Because space law is closely related to international and telecommunications law, much of the program's content could be taught by the school's current professors.

So far, Chris Beutler, a Nebraska state senator, is in support of the space law idea. In fact, he wrote a letter to Milliken encouraging him to move forward with the program.

"I suspect that the College of Law might well be the ideal location for this country's first comprehensive space law program and such an endeavor would be good for the country, good for the university, and good for the City of Lincoln," Beutler told the Lincoln Journal Star.

McGill University, located in Canada, is currently known as the world leader in space law education. The university's Institute of Air and Space Law (IASL) was established in 1951 and provides graduate legal education to students interested in law regarding international aviation and space.

Since the founding of the program, the IASL has graduated around 800 students from 120 different countries. Students who have attended the IASL have gone on to work for international organizations, governmental air-transport ministries, airlines, and law firms.

The IASL offers students the choice of a Graduate Certificate, a Master of Laws (LL.M.), or a Doctor of Civil Law (D.C.L.). The Graduate Certificate requires students to complete at least 15 credits of course work and one term of residence. The LL.M. is awarded after the completion of 45 credits and three academic terms. This program cannot exceed three years. The D.C.L. is a research degree that requires students to write a thesis.

In a world that continues to stretch beyond its geographic borders, law students should be aware of issues concerning space law and should consider whether or not this field is something they are interested in going into.

"Space law became what it did because Sputnik went up and all of a sudden there were no rules for the game we found ourselves in," said Joanne Irene Gabrynowicz, Professor of Space Law at the University of Mississippi and Director of the National Remote Sensing and Space Law Center, in an interview with the Christian Science Monitor. "For a long time, there were no credible activities that forced the issue of space law forward."

Gabrynowicz and other law professors think that as space becomes more accessible and space exploration becomes a bigger part of everyday life, space law will become even more prominent.

"Law is a product of the needs of a society," said Hank Greely, Professor of Law at Stanford University, in a Christian Science Monitor interview. "When space is not valued, there is not space law…and 40 years ago, space was not as accessible as it has become today."

published June 05, 2006

( 4 votes, average: 4.1 out of 5)
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