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Will Mars colonies follow Earth’s laws? Elon Musk’s SpaceX will not, company declares it a 'free planet'

'No Earth-based government has authority or sovereignty over Martian activities,' states Starlink app’s terms of service
(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

It is no secret that SpaceX CEO Elon Musk wants to build a city on Mars, and his firm has now declared the Red Planet a “free planet.” Musk’s planned colony on Mars will not be ruled by any “Earth-based government,” and will instead have its own self-governing principles.” These strange conditions were slipped in quietly into the terms of service of its Starlink satellite internet service. The terms, however, note that people using the internet service on Earth or Moon will have to follow the laws of California.

“For services provided on Mars, or in transit to Mars via Starship or other colonization spacecraft, the parties recognize Mars as a free planet and that no Earth-based government has authority or sovereignty over Martian activities,” reads the section on governing law. It adds, “Accordingly, disputes will be settled through self-governing principles, established in good faith, at the time of Martian settlement.”

A Twitter account, Whole Mars Catalog, discovered that people could be signing up for a lot more than they may have thought.


Starlink is the name of a satellite network that the private spaceflight company SpaceX is developing to provide high-speed broadband internet to remote locations. The proposal was initially announced in January 2015. In May 2019, the first 60 Starlink satellites were launched. Currently, more than 800 Starlink satellites have already been launched into orbit around Earth, and many more are planned in the future. 

A Starlink app was launched in certain regions recently, following a beta test of the network’s capabilities in parts of the US and Canada. It is then that people noticed the terms of service which announced that it will not recognize international law on Mars. Notably, the “Declaration of the Rights and Responsibilities of Humanity in the Universe” says that would be “considered free, by all, for all, and to all.”

The news comes after SpaceX president and COO Gwynne Shotwell recently said that the company is planning to bring a Starlink-like service to the Red Planet. “Once we take people to Mars, they’re going to need a capability to communicate. In fact, I think it will be even more critical to have a constellation like Starlink around Mars,” Shotwell said during an interview with TIME. 

The news comes after SpaceX president and COO Gwynne Shotwell recently said that the company is planning to bring a Starlink-like service to the Red Planet (Getty Images)

The new terms fall in line with Musk’s idea that any successful Mars settlement must be able to survive on its own. “It’s helpful to have as the objective the creation of a self-sustaining city on Mars…Not simply a few people or a base, but a self-sustaining city. The acid test, really, is, if the ships from Earth stop coming for any reason, does Mars die out? If it does, then we’re not in a secure place,” he said at the annual conference of the Mars Society’s. Musk added, “This really might come down to: Are we going to create a self-sustaining city on Mars before or after World War 3? And I think the probability of it being created after World War 3 – hopefully there’s never a World War 3 – but the (probability) of after is low, so we should try and make the city self-sustaining before any possible World War 3.”

Meanwhile, in a series of tweets in January this year, Musk had revealed plans that he wants to put a million people on Mars by 2050. He said he hopes to build 1,000 Starships over the next 10 years. “Building 100 Starships/year gets to 1000 in 10 years or 100 megatons/year or maybe around 100k people per Earth-Mars orbital sync,” he said.

When a Twitter user asked him if that would equate to one million people on Mars by 2050, Musk responded with a ‘yes’.