Mia Bonardi


“Mars has been our mirror, our foil, a telltale reflection of what has been deepest in our hearts. We have seen in Mars a utopia. A wilderness. A sanctuary. An oracle. With so few landmarks, guideposts, or constraints, all is possible; without data that could be used to cabin our inquiry or limit our imagination, Mars has been a blank canvas. And tenderly, our human seeking has rushed to fill it.” – Sarah Stewart Johnson, Planetary Scientist

With humans currently in orbit around Earth on the International Space Station and targets to put them back on the Moon in this decade and on Mars in the next, exploring an extraterrestrial governance is timely. There are several proposed Martian constitutions based on earthly models, but as of yet, obviously, none formed by a Martian populace. Similar to early European explorers in search of new trade routes, could the commercialization of outer space lead to an unfolding of novel governance and “discovery” of new worlds? What ethical considerations must be made during such a pursuit?

Considering a Martian constitution is pertinent to current constitutionalism on Earth. This article argues that (1) codification is vital to accommodate and adapt to a shifting populace that could eventually include artificially intelligent or extraterrestrial life; (2) there will likely be a need for nonhuman rights, which should only reinforce and expand human rights on Earth; (3) a rethinking of traditional notions of jurisdiction/“zones of sovereignty” should guide governments through technological innovations of the 21st century; and (4) a declaration of Martian independence will likely precede any Martian constitution to gain adequate interplanetary recognition and enforce a Martian “zone of sovereignty.”

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