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One of the most exciting recent developments in outer space, especially from a legal standpoint, is the advent of space tourism. Within the legal issues surrounding that development, liability is of prime importance.
Liability is, of course, always about "passing the buck," or, more precisely, about who should pay compensation for damage caused by the activities concerned. At both the international level and in the field of space law, however, a large measure of confusion has often arisen as to the scope, meaning, and consequences of liability. This confusion is partly the consequence of liability's intricate relationship to the concept of "[state] responsibility," where Article VI of the Outer Space Treaty" has applied this concept to the specific context of outer space and space activities. Further confusion results from the fact that liability itself is a concept and a term used in numerous national as well as international legal regimes, but may have different interpretations and applications in the separate contexts.
Thus, space law liability, especially of the international brand, which is the core subject of this Article, depends upon a specific legal regime, the boundaries of which will depend on questions such as: where does liability apply, who is a potential claimant, who is potentially liable, what type of liability is provided, how will compensation be distributed, etc.