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Let’s say hypothetically I could fund a rocket ship and pack it with lots of biomaterial. Biomaterial that would hopefully survive the impact, reproduce and potentially alter the atmosphere of Mars.

And for the sake of argument, let’s say I can do it anywhere that will be happy to take my business of producing and launching a rocket. Somewhere with lax regulations of launching rockets or could easily be coerced with money.

Given that I could achieve this, who would have the authority to stop it? As far as I’m aware no one owns Mars and and is responsible for its preservation?

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  • $\begingroup$ Practically there is no life on the Antarctica and in the Sahara. The very little life of the Sahara can happen in the very rare cases as there is a very little rain there. On the Mars, there isn't even this very little rain. I think some very advanced metabolism would be needed to extract the very few water from the atmosphere, it would require advanced genetic engineering. No organism on the Earth can do that. $\endgroup$ – peterh Oct 27 '18 at 23:11
  • $\begingroup$ I think the poster knows that @peterh, it's a question about authority, not viability. $\endgroup$ – GdD Oct 28 '18 at 8:59
  • $\begingroup$ @peterh, yes as GdD says, it's about legality as opposed to whether the actual process of terraforming would work. $\endgroup$ – Rambatino Oct 28 '18 at 9:08
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    $\begingroup$ I am almost entirely sure if you offered 1 trillion dollars to the USA they'd send one of the aforementioned rockets 2x a year for the next 30 years. Our NASA budget is 316m. You could honestly just get NASA to do it as a multibillionare most likely. $\endgroup$ – Magic Octopus Urn Oct 30 '18 at 18:20
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Who would have the authority to stop me?

The country from which you're trying to launch.

Article IX of the Outer Space Treaty (formally, the "Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies") dictates that

States Parties to the Treaty shall pursue studies of outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, and conduct exploration of them so as to avoid their harmful contamination and also adverse changes in the environment of the Earth resulting from the introduction of extraterrestrial matter and, where necessary, shall adopt appropriate measures for this purpose. If a State Party to the Treaty has reason to believe that an activity or experiment planned by it or its nationals in outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, would cause potentially harmful interference with activities of other States Parties in the peaceful exploration and use of outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, it shall undertake appropriate international consultations before proceeding with any such activity or experiment. A State Party to the Treaty which has reason to believe that an activity or experiment planned by another State Party in outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, would cause potentially harmful interference with activities in the peaceful exploration and use of outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, may request consultation concerning the activity or experiment.

So what you're looking for is one of the following:

  • A tiny little country such as Vanuatu that did not sign the Outer Space Treaty but has a significant number of rocket scientists who are willing to make your launch happen.

    Good luck with that.


  • A private entity (e.g., Company X) located in a country with the requisite number of rocket scientist employees who could actually make your launch occur and which is willing to forgo all the lucrative contracts that Company X has with its parent government regarding launches just so they could launch your one-off Mars terraforming vehicle.

    Good luck with that.


  • A country that was at one time the leading nation in space exploration but that has decayed due to massive corruption.

    You might have lots of luck with that.


  • A country that currently is the leading nation in space exploration but that has decayed due to massive corruption.

    You might have even better luck with that.

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  • $\begingroup$ Or, it could happen "accidentally". Although the countries follow that treaty, I would be surprised if violating it would be explicitly mentioned in their criminal law. This treaty was created to protect the possible extraterrestrial life from our bacteria, and not to forbid bringing life where there is not. $\endgroup$ – peterh Oct 28 '18 at 15:18
  • $\begingroup$ I like your answer and voted up, but "good luck with that", it's not all that far fetched to imagine a few eager rocket scientists who share the OP's vision could move to a small island/nation and work on this project with shared interest. I remember a story like that some years ago, but didn't have luck googling it. I'm not saying it's likely cause Mars is far and terraforming is hard. It's fantasy, but not entirely impossible. $\endgroup$ – userLTK Oct 29 '18 at 0:06
  • $\begingroup$ "The country from which you're trying to launch." Okay, so don't launch from a country. The cost of buying an independent island, building your own, or building an offshore platform would be of no consequence compared to the cost of terraforming Mars. Of course, if a country doesn't want you doing this, there are ways of stopping you anyway, like military options, if it came to that. $\endgroup$ – Don Branson Oct 29 '18 at 20:28
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As well as the launching state (for reasons explained in David Hammen's answer) your own country also should take action. Article VI of the Outer Space Treaty says:

States Parties to the Treaty shall bear international responsibility for national activities in outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, whether such activities are carried on by governmental agencies or by non-governmental entities, and for assuring that national activities are carried out in conformity with the provisions set forth in the present Treaty.

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