Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles Law is complex and doesn't always have a good reputation. But this episode will show the law at its best, helping all humanity build a future amongst the stars. If an astronaut gets lost in space, who comes to the rescue? And how can the law help make a place for everyone in orbit? First – something right out of the movies: what happens in a space emergency? We've seen, in earlier episodes, how astronauts have to follow the law of their own country when they're in space. The law isn't just something that you have to obey; it protects you too. So, what happens when you're a long way from home? How could your country's laws protect you? If an Indian astronaut got into trouble in space, international law says it's not just India's responsibility to help. The Outer Space Treaty and Rescue Agreement means that other countries should attempt to help. More than 130 countries have signed the OST. And if an astronaut crash-lands in another country, the treaty means that they have to be returned home safely. So, has the Rescue Treaty ever been needed? Here's space lawyer, Deepika Jayakodi: In reality, there hasn't been a case where astronauts have been rescued. When the Apollo 13 mission was going on, there was a risk that people anticipated. The mission had to be aborted and, although nothing crazy happened, then USSR offered to assist USA in case they had to rescue astronauts. Although astronauts haven't yet needed to be rescued, the USSR offered help to American astronauts when the Apollo mission went wrong. So, what if a country didn't help? A country can be held responsible and by holding someone responsible, it could mean that you look into other provisions under international law, to see if they can provide a compensation, or just to show that you haven't fulfilled a moral and a legal obligation to do something. Countries that don't help might have to pay compensation, and it would damage their reputation. What about private companies? Private companies come under... under the control of a country. So, if a country is obligated to render this assistance, then the private company is obligated as well. Companies also have to help astronauts in need, because they come under the control of countries. Deepika explained how a new agreement, called the Artemis Accords, strengthened the Rescue Agreement. The Artemis Accords states that if there is someone in danger, if they require emergency assistance, then the countries or even the companies who are working on the Moon – they should be... they should extend help to those in need. The Artemis Accords echo the Rescue Agreement. They say countries and companies working on the Moon must help those in need. The rescue agreement remains a good example of how space law shows lawmakers at their best. There's something very solid, which shows just how well we can work together, and it's probably gone right over your head. Two small spacecraft, locked together high above the Earth. These are the Russian Zarya and the American Unity, joining together in 1998. They might not look like much, but they grew into one of humanity's greatest achievements. Bit by bit, spinning through the skies, the structure grew to become the International Space Station. It came about after the end of the Cold War: a symbol of hope more than 400km above the Earth. It's more than 100m wide and getting bigger, circling the Earth fifteen times a day. It's home to astronauts from all over the globe, from countries that haven't always been friendly, working together to help us understand the universe. So, how did people ever agree to build this together? Here's space lawyer, Jessica Noble, to explain: So, in order to build the International Space Station, a multilateral treaty needed to be put in place. Now, a multilateral treaty is an agreement between more than one nation, and a group of nations had come together in support of building the International Space Station. So, this was the United States, Russia, Canada, Japan and the European countries, which comprise the membership of the European Space Agency. Fifteen nations partnered to build the International Space Station. They needed to sign an agreement called a multilateral treaty – an agreement between more than one country. So, on the ISS, do all the astronauts follow one set of laws? You have the intergovernmental agreement, which applies to the activities on the International Space Station, but each country that contributed to the ISS contributed a portion of hardware to it, and in each of these hardware segments, or elements, the country's national law applies. So, for the US element, US national law applies in that segment. In the Russian element, Russian law applies in that segment. So, you have... you have different national laws that govern activities in those individual segments of the ISS. The law of the nation that built each part of the ISS applies in that part that the country built. So, American laws in the American bits, Russian laws in the Russian bits. But does any one country have more power than any other up there? No one country has more power than... than another under the intergovernmental agreement. This is a true multilateral agreement amongst these... these countries who are partners on the International Space Station. The agreement about the ISS means no one country has more legal power on the International Space Station. Does that apply to the scientific work they're doing up there? There's a concept of cooperation and sharing of information related to scientific discoveries on board the International Space Station. So... and this actually comes from the Outer Space Treaty as well, and the idea that scientific discoveries made in space should be shared with all countries. So, if you're a partner on the International Space Station and you are making discoveries on the ISS, that information needs to be made public. All discoveries made in space should be for everyone. That means all the scientific discoveries made on the International Space Station should also be for everyone. The International Space Station: a marvel of complicated technology and complicated lawmaking. It shows how the rules of space law help rivals work together now and hopefully into the future, as we head out into the stars.