Guest Post: Episode 3 of ASIL’s space law series: “Lessons from the Fall of the House of Atreides”

In today’s post Lawfire® contributor (and LENS Conference participant!) Navy CDR Tracy Reynolds, alerts us to the next installment of the American Society of International Law’s (ASIL) Space Interest Group’s Zoom series Empire (Star Wars) or Utopia (Star Trek)? The Predictive Power of History, Policy, & Pop Culture.” 

In her original post (here) Tracy explained why the Space Interest Group was taking this novel approach:

“International law practitioners, academics, and decision-makers can consider not only history and policy, but we can also explore legal concepts within the context of fictional narratives.  We can choose to explore potential third and fourth order effects through pop culture.  This creative and deep thinking can help us all.  Practitioners can creatively consider risk mitigation in a no-risk environment.  Decision-makers can explore consequences of actions without any real world impacts.  Creative thinking will increase informed decision making about law and policy in outer space.”

Here’s information about Episode 3 which explores, as she says, the “blockbuster movie franchise “Dune” and “Dune: Part 2” to discuss the development of the outer space legal regime.”

“Lessons from the Fall of the House of Atreides”

by Tracy Reynolds*

Join the Space Law Interest Group, part of the American Society of International Law, on 29 Mar 2024, at 12:00pmEST for Episode 3 of “Empire (Star Wars) or Utopia (Star Trek)?  The Predictive Power of History, Policy, & Pop Culture.”  This time, panelists turn to Frank Herbert’s Dune, and the blockbuster movie franchise “Dune” and “Dune: Part 2” to discuss the development of the outer space legal regime.

To recap Episodes 1 and 2, international law practitioners, policy makers, academics, private companies, and governments are all aware of the lack of State practice and case law regarding the application of law in outer space.  While the Outer Space Treaty, and the associated treaty regime that includes the Rescue Agreement (1968), Space Liability Convention (1972), and Registration Convention (1976), is surprisingly resilient and has survived changing societal conditions, there is limited State practice in outer space and no case law.

The Zoom event series “Empire (Star Wars) or Utopia (Star Trek)? The Predictive Power of History, Policy, & Pop Culture” seeks to explore questions of law, policy, and ethics in outer space through narratives presented in movies, literature, and other media.  Episode 1 took on explaining the intersection of history and pop culture while describing the importance of creative thinking to solve complex legal and policy issues.  Episode 2 considered the Geneva Conventions in outer space and the connection between terrestrial legal principles and the application of these legal concepts in outer space.

Now, we turn to Episode 3:  Lessons Learned from the Fall of House Atreides.

Clearly, there are limited examples of State practice to develop customary international law in outer space or assist in interpreting existing treaty law.  However, Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel, Dune, David Lynch’s 1984 film by the same name, and the blockbuster movie franchise that launched in 2021 with the first movie and in March 2024 with the second, Dune:  Part 2, are deeply rich in scenarios that can assist in the potential interpretation of legal principles in outer space.

‘Episode 3: Space Lessons Learned from the Fall of House Atreides’ is scheduled for Friday, 29 March 2024, at 12:00pm EST. 

Register for Episode 3 at this link:

Episode 3 builds on the theme set during Episodes 1 and 2 that science fiction may guide legal practitioners and policy makers regarding developments in outer space considering the lack of documented State practice and resolved litigation in this domain.

Through Dune (no spoilers for Dune:  Part 2), panelists will explore great power competition, resource scarcity, insider threats, and the potential influence of private companies in outer space.  Panelists will also discuss the manner in which these concepts may be applied in outer space, on the Moon, or on Mars.

Panelists include:

    • Michelle L.D. Hanlon (Co-Director of the Air and Space Law Program at the University of Mississippi School of Law and its Center for Air and Space Law)
    • Thomas Harper, International Humanitarian Law, Office of the General Counsel, American Red Cross National Headquarters
    • Namrata Goswami, author of Scramble for the Skies The Great Power Competition to Control the Resources of Outer Space
    • David Kohnen, the Captain Tracy Barrett Kittredge Scholar of War Studies and Maritime History at the US Naval War College

No previous knowledge is required to enjoy Episode 3, but if you interest is piqued, you may watch Episodes 1 and 2 on YouTube.

Episode 1:  Why you should care about Han Solo and Captain Kirk

Episode 2:  Perfidy in Space – Do Klingons Follow the Geneva Conventions?

About the Author

Tracy Reynolds, CDR, JAGC, USN is an active-duty military attorney in the U.S. Navy.  She currently serves as Force Judge Advocate to Commander, Naval Medical Forces Atlantic in Portsmouth, Virginia. Throughout her seventeen years of service, she has advised military decision makers both ashore and afloat during peacetime and combat operations.

CDR Reynolds’ focus at NMFL is on investigations, national security cases, and ethics.  Prior to NMFL, she served at SECOND Fleet and advised on Russian hypersonic missiles off the East Coast, Chinese high altitude balloon recovery operations, and countering drones in international air space and on/under the high seas.  CDR Reynolds is a remote PhD student through the University of Adelaide.  Her thesis is that maritime law can and should serve as an analogue to the development of the outer space legal regime.


Tracy Reynolds is a commander in the U.S. Navy. All views expressed in this article are the participant’s own and do not represent the official view of the U.S. government, the Department of Defense, or the Department of the Navy.

The views expressed by guest authors do not necessarily reflect my views or those of the Center on Law, Ethics and National Security, or Duke University.  See also here.

Remember what we like to say on Lawfire®: gather the facts, examine the law, evaluate the arguments – and then decide for yourself!

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