The Working Man: Dr Chris Newman | Living North

The Working Man: Dr Chris Newman

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Dr Chris Newman
This month we take off with Dr Chris Newman, an expert in Space Law at Sunderland University

What’s your job title? 
I am a Reader in Law.

What does that mean? 
It means I am an academic who leads research at the University of Sunderland in a specialist area of law. In my case, this expertise is in International Space Law; that is the law regulating activities in Outer Space.

Why might a state try to claim ownership of the moon? 
Mining on the moon and other celestial bodies is seen by many as an opportunity to expand the amount of resources available. The Earth is currently a closed system, with a finite amount of resources. By mining outer space, this could potentially provide access to a potentially limitless amount of valuable resources.

Is mining on the moon really possible?
At the moment the plans to do this are still in the very early stages of development. There are a number of companies, however, who are putting a significant amount of money into developing the technology to accomplish extra-terrestrial mining. So whilst it won’t happen any time soon, the infrastructure may start to emerge over the next decade.

Legally speaking, did Wallace have any right to go extracting cheese from the moon’s surface in A Grand Day Out? 
No, he should be brought before a court immediately to account for his illegal appropriation. One thing as a Space Lawyer I am desperately short of is case law to provide an indication as to the attitude of the courts to lunar mining. The USA have recently passed the Space Act 2015 which permits the usage and trading of resources that have been mined. This has been extremely contentious, with some academics saying that it is not permitted under the existing rules governing space activity. So if Wallace had been a US citizen, the position might have been a bit clearer.

What’s the best part of the job? 
Working with some of the most brilliant, dedicated students anywhere in the world.

And the worst? 
The look of disbelief when I tell people that I am an academic Space Lawyer.

What assumptions do people wrongly make about your job? 
The main assumption people make is that space has no law – whereas the opposite is true.

How did you get the job? 
In 2004 I moved from being a solicitor in private practice to becoming an academic at Sunderland University. I specialised in research, publishing a number of scholarly articles and getting my PhD in 2011. I was appointed as a Reader in 2013 and led the Law submission to the Research Excellence Framework in 2014.

What was your dream job? 
I’m extremely lucky in that I am doing it!

What’s the worst job you’ve ever had? 
I’ve been really lucky in that every job I have done (including selling double-glazing door-to-door whilst at University) has given me some skills and experience that have helped me get to where I am now.

What time do you start? 
I am usually up and working by 7am. During term time, I will look to be in the office for around 8am.

What time do you finish? 
This can vary depending on the proximity to a deadline or if I am teaching. When deadlines are close there is no ‘finish time’ as such.

What does your working day entail? 
On a teaching day, I will normally come into the office early, catch up on admin and emails, then make sure I am available for student inquiries when not teaching. On a day when I am writing or researching, I will be immersing myself in scholarly articles, listening to space industry related podcasts, liaising with colleagues and actually writing up my research. Researching can be quite solitary at times, unlike the teaching.

Published in: September 2016

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