Archive for June, 2019

In honor of the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing, I present an University of South Dakota / outer space connection:



USD alumnus Carl Q. Christol (1913-2012) was a pioneer in space law. He wrote The International Law of Outer Space (1966) and helped negotiate the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (1967).


Christol grew up in Vermillon SD, where his father was a history professor at the University of South Dakota. He graduated Magna Cum Laude with an AB degree in Government in 1934 from the USD, received a PhD in 1940 from the University of Chicago, and studied at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in Massachusetts, followed by a year at the University of Geneva and the Institute of Higher International Studies.


Christol’s ideas on space law were articulated while he was teaching and researching at the U. S. Naval War College in 1962-l963. Much of space law was borrowed from sea law, especially freedom to fish on the high seas, freedom to lay cables on the high seas, and freedom to navigation on the high seas.


Christol stated that one of the compromises reached by the Soviet Union and the United States during the negotiations for the 1967 space treaty involved private businesses in space. The Soviet Union wanted only governments to do space launches. The United States wanted private firms to have the same opportunities as governments. The treaty compromise does allow private firms in space, but the nation state of which these firms are nationals are responsible for any liabilities created by the private firms. This forethought allows SpaceX, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic, and others to create and launch their own space vehicles.


Christol was also involved in international organizations law and human rights law. He credited his world-wide perspective to his German-born father.



Carl Q. Christol folder, Alumni Collection (USD2010.11), box 1, USD Archives, The University of South Dakota.

Carl Q. Christol Interview, 2010, YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6zKqc0oB44c (accessed 5/23/2019).

 “Carl Q. Christol.” The Dakotan, winter 1967, p.18, Alumni Newsletters, Alumni Quarterly and South Dakotan Collection, box 5, USD Archives, The University of South Dakota.

Fifty-second Annual Commencement, University of South Dakota, June 11, 1934. Commencement Announcements Collection, box 1, USD Archives, The University of South Dakota.

Fox, Stuart. 6 Private Companies That Could Launch Humans Into Space. Space.com. https://www.space.com/8541-6-private-companies-launch-humans-space.html (accessed 5/23/2019).

Hatton, Scott. Carl Q. Christol (1913-2012), memoriam. International Institute of Space Law. https://iislweb.org/?s=christol (accessed 5/23/2019).

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