Schaefer on US space law education

The US has always been a leader in space, but a follower in space law eduction. In the Wall Street Journal today, Professor Matt Schaefer, director of the University of Nebraska College of Law's hot, new, first-in-the-nation Space and Telecom Law Program, notes the "curious" lack until now of an American degree-bearing space law program, and calls for what will esentially be a new era for space law school in the US. And he's the guy leading the charge:

Space Law in the U.S. Needs a Giant Leap

In response to "One Giant Leap" by Peter D. Zimmerman (editorial page, Oct. 1): Just as the Soviets beat the U.S. in launching a satellite into orbit in 1957, foreign academic institutions beat U.S. law schools in offering degrees in space law. McGill University in Montreal and Leiden University in the Netherlands have offered degrees in air and space law for many years. Yet in the U.S. no such degree program existed until the creation of the University of Nebraska College of Law's Space and Telecom Law LL.M. program that just received final university approval in June.

The absence of a degree-bearing program was particularly curious given that the U.S. is by far the largest actor in space, controlling or operating roughly 70% of space assets, and has the largest market share in both the global space and telecommunications industries. Just as the launch of Sputnik pushed a drive in math and science studies in the U.S., increased commercialization and militarization of space over the past decade has rekindled an interest in regulating space activities, at both the international and national levels. And just as the scientific and technical aspects of space activities bear witness to both cooperation and competition among nations, the space law community will follow suit.

For evidence of this dual trend, look no further than the invitation list to Nebraska's first conference on security and risk management in space activities, including scholars from the other leading space law institutes, as well as the hiring away of Leiden's resident space law expert, Frans von der Dunk, by Nebraska's new program. The space law community hopes that the same advances made through cooperation and competition in the scientific and technical aspects of space can be made in the legal arena as well.

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