We see many bequests to the arts in our estate planning and litigation practice, but this might be the biggest – and most unusual – philanthropic “ask” of all time.
Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa – a 42-year-old retail entrepreneur, art collector, and former punk-rocker – announced that he had purchased the first tourist ticket on Elon Musk’s inaugural SpaceX flight to the moon and back, scheduled for 2023.
Then came the surprising part. He didn’t just purchase one ticket for the flight: he purchased all the tickets. At a cost of millions, he plans to ask a handful of artists from different disciplines – film, photography, painting and more – to join him on the inaugural flight.
In exchange for a donated flight ticket, the artists would create works inspired by their experience. You can read more about Maezawa here. And this short video sets out his goals for the project, one that he calls #dearMoon. It’s a revolutionary idea for the revolutionary concept of tourist space travel.
Oh, but the risks …
Revolutionary or not, what do you say to someone who offers you an artistic experience worth millions, but also one that could kill you? Even Musk acknowledges that space travel carries significant risk, and NASA has expressed serious concerns about the launch process in particular. That said, NASA plans to use SpaceX rockets in 2019 to send astronauts to the International Space Station.
And the artists for the 2023 flight? Maezawa hasn’t asked anyone yet, but he is encouraging those he does ask to say “yes.” Which begs the question: what would you do if you were asked? If I were in the later part of my artistic career, with family all grown and an artistic legacy established, I might jump at the chance. I’d have lived a full life, and there are worse ways to go if something does go wrong.
But for many, the potential sacrifice of life for art will be, I think, too much to ask. I have no doubt that Maezawa will be travelling with a full flight of artists. I’ll be curious to see which ones agree to go.
Thanks for reading … Have a great day,
NASA revealed exciting news earlier this week when they announced the discovery of liquid water flowing on the surface of Mars. The presence of water is an encouraging find. It boosts the prospects of discovering life on our nearest neighbour, and it raises questions about whether the planet could someday host human visitors.
The goal of sending people to the Martian surface now seems more attainable than ever. Talk of sending astronauts to Mars is likely to accelerate over the coming months. With people travelling to and someday settling on the red planet, a whole host of legal issues are likely to arise about how people will live on Mars, and some day, how we will deal with death in space.
The problem of applying testamentary law in space is a novel one. Perhaps the closest historical analog is the example of the explorers who set sail centuries ago in search of strange, new places across the seas. One of the legal developments that arose was the exception for privileged wills. Sailors at sea were allowed to make wills without them being subject to the same formal requirements that governed other wills.
Today, section 5 of Ontario’s Succession Law Reform Act addresses the formal validity of wills made by “a sailor when at sea or in the course of a voyage”. The section provides for a relaxation of the usual requirements for a will to be formally valid, including the requirement for two witnesses in the case of an attested will and the requirement that the will be wholly in the handwriting of the testator in the case of a holograph will. It provides that a sailor at sea can make a will by a writing, signed by the testator or by some other person in his or her presence and by his or her direction, without any other formalities. The section also applies to members of the Canadian Forces on active service and members of any other naval, land or air force while on active service.
There are no cases testing whether this provision or analogous provisions in other jurisdictions (on Earth) would apply to relax the formal requirements for a will where it is made during a space flight or while residing on Mars. It’s possible that astronauts in flight could be considered to be analogous to sailors at sea. It’s also possible that NASA astronauts would be members of a military force on active service, and accordingly gain access to the use of privileged wills.
It seems that it will be still be some time before we will need to consider the problems associated with living on Mars, and hopefully much longer before issues associated with death on Mars need to be sorted out. Perhaps need will spur new and unforeseen innovations in our legal system, just as naval exploration once did.
Mars is probably a forced heirship planet, anyway.