One of many phrases of use for Starlink is that you simply "acknowledge Mars as a free planet".


In May 2019, SpaceX launched its Starlink constellation with the launch of its first 60 satellites. To date, the company has launched over 800 satellites and is producing them (starting this summer) at a rate of around 120 per month. By the end of 2021 or 2022, Elon Musk is hoping for a constellation of 1,440 satellites offering near-global service, and perhaps 42,000 providing internet for the entire planet by the end of the decade.

Since November 2020, SpaceX has invited participants to take part in a public beta test entitled "Better Than Nothing". The aptly named service offers users a modest rate between 50 and 150 megabits per second, a far cry from the low-latency gigabit download speeds they'd been hoping for. But perhaps more interesting is the little point in the Terms of Use where participants have to acknowledge that Mars is a "free planet".

This article was discovered by the WholeMarsBlog Twitter account (which has since been disabled) and was later confirmed by Smoke-Away Reddit user. On a message board posted on Starlink's official Reddit account on Wednesday October 28th, they attached the full Terms of Use document that users must sign in order to participate in the Better Than Nothing beta test can.

This included the following point in the "Governing Law" section:

“For services that are provided on Mars or on the way to Mars via a spaceship or another colonization spaceship, the parties recognize Mars as a free planet No earthbound government has any authority or sovereignty over Martian activities. Accordingly, disputes will be resolved by self-governing principles established in good faith at the time of Mars's settlement. "

Well … that is certainly a bold statement. And it certainly wasn't a big surprise, as Musk has made it clear that he hopes to start a colony on Mars one day. In addition to starting Mars exploration, establishing a colony on the Red Planet is one of the reasons Musk launched SpaceX in 2001. This is also the purpose of the Starship and Super-Heavy launch system.

On several occasions, Musk has provided snippets of what his long-term vision would be. As he described in January 2020, he hopes to ramp up production of the spacecraft and build 100 per year for ten years to create a fleet of 1000 spacecraft. He estimates that these would be able to carry up to 100 megatons per year, or 100 people per trip, which would happen every 26 months (when Earth and Mars are closest).

After a few decades, he hopes this will lead to the creation of a self-sustaining civilization on Mars with a minimum population of a million men, women, and children. As for the type of government this civilization will have, Musk has in the past expressed his preference for direct democracy, as he did in a 2018 interview during the South by Southwest conference. As he notes in the video above (10 minute mark):

“Most likely, the form of government on Mars would be some kind of direct democracy, where people vote directly on issues instead of going through representative government. When the United States was formed, the only thing that was logistically feasible was representative government because there was no way for the people communicate immediately. "

Communicate immediately? Does that sound like a specific service Musk wants to offer people? After all, Musk has hinted that he hopes to build a satellite constellation around Mars to provide broadband access. And while it sounds like Musk is laying the groundwork for a bizarre social experiment, what he is proposing is not without precedent.

In fact, there is an ongoing tradition that national governments cannot declare sovereignty over space or other planets. According to Article II of the Outer Space Treaty (signed 1968): “Outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, is not subject to national appropriation by claim to sovereignty, by use or occupation or in any other way. "

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches two of the company's test Starlink satellites in February. Image Credit: SpaceX

However, these terms are in stark contrast to what the Governing Law section says about Starlink services on Earth or on the Moon:

"Services provided for, on, or in orbit around planet Earth or the moon are subject to these Terms and all disputes between us arising out of or in connection with these Terms, including disputes regarding arbitration (" Disputes ”), and will be construed in accordance with the laws of the State of California. "

While the other Starlink and Musks ventures are still governed by the law of the land here on Earth, Mars may be a different story. For some, the idea of ​​a business to start a colony inspires all sorts of dystopian fantasies, not to mention some unfavorable historical comparisons. A look at the records of Hudson & # 39; s Bay or East India Company will make everyone think twice!

It should of course be emphasized that these Terms of Use relate to a public beta test and may not constitute the final version as of the time Starlink's services officially become available. So if you really want to take the Better Than Nothing test, then it's probably okay to check this box!

While Musk certainly likes to think about (and talk about) the future, by then there's so much TBD that speculation about how Mars will be ruled is pretty meaningless!

Further reading: InVerse, Futurism

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