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"We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." Black Cloud Studious™ - independent game developer.

Have you ever been confused by irrational or emotional behavior of the crew of the space stations and spaceships in sci-fi movies, games and books? Have your ever considered that real astronauts should behave and act another way?

If you have, then the Daedalus is the right place for you!

Patreon link to root game:


Genre: Interactive Movie, Adventure.

Platforms: Windows, Linix Mac OS X.

Players: Single-player

Atmospherically, it is inspired by: Solaris (by Stanislaw Lem), The Invincible (by Stanislaw Lem), Echopraxia (by Peter Watts), 2001: A Space Odyssey (by Stanley Kubrick and Arthur Clarke), The Ego Tunnel (by Thomas Metzinger).

So, the game takes place in year 2112 aboard the Daedalus Space Station (DSS) orbiting Venus.

We have the crew of the Daedalus-22 mission (one year, manned) aboard the station comprises six astronauts:

Daedalus is meant to be a game in the hard sci-fi genre. That implies a robust science basis for everything as well as the reality-based characters and their behavior. That way, when you're playing the game, you get that feeling like "Wow, that really might happen!"

To make the character act/conduct the proper way in various "unusual" circumstances I have been asking NASA’s employees about their actual protocols and procedures for such situations and events — somber or critical, mostly. My intentions are to make my characters conduct themselves like real astronauts, not like teenagers or mentally unstable crazy characters in soft or popular science fiction.

In Daedalus, while there are specialists on every crew, everyone can do anyone's job when it comes to keeping the spacecraft running and performing basic mission functions. That's just like on real space missions. In most space sci-fi, it's often a critical plot point that only one guy knows how to do something mission-critical.

I am going to share my findings on NASA’s Reddit, including official comments and links, as well as saturated comment from our science adviser Sebastian Tivig. And I am marking the most crucial and interesting parts (from my point of view) that should affect the Daedalus’ gameplay.

Today, I would like to answer one of those questions.

A murder in space

So what are NASA protocols for murder of one of the crew aboard the ISS?

For all three hypothetical scenarios:

  • during the extravehicular activity (EVA);
  • aboard the ISS when it is clear who committed the murder;
  • aboard the ISS when it is NOT clear who committed the murder.

Specific questions:

  • What should ranking crew do aboard the DSS?
  • What should Mission Director do?
  • What about the body?
  • What about the murderer?
  • What about the other crew?
  • What are legal issues (whose jurisdiction)?
  • Some link on relevant official guidance/manuals/docs?

Before asking NASA and Sebastian, I had already checked Independent Space Station Task Force but did not find the answers. So, let’s check what space masters finally shared.


The answer depends on which part of the station the murder happens in. There is a treaty that covers the ISS, between US, Canada, EU, Japan and Russia.

From ESA's webpage:

"...The basic rule is that 'each partner shall retain jurisdiction and control over the elements it registers and over personnel in or on the Space Station who are its nationals' (Article 5 of the Intergovernmental Agreement)..."


"... This extension of national jurisdiction determines what laws are applicable for activities occurring on a Partner’s Space Station elements (e.g. European law in the European Columbus Laboratory). This legal regime recognises the jurisdiction of the Partner States’s courts and allows the application of national laws in such areas as criminal matters, liability issues, and protection of intellectual property rights. Any conflicts of jurisdiction between the Partners may be resolved through the application of other rules and procedures already developed nationally and internationally..."

I assume that some court would try to declare a space suit used in an EVA as a section of that nation's, so if you killed a Russian in a Russian space suit then it happens in Russia.

But this is all purely speculative.

You might want to read up on the Skylab "Mutiny". NASA doesn't call it that, but it will show you a bit how they behave when the crew, in orbit is disobedient:

* * *

Wile I'm passing around links. I assume you know about the guns that used to be on the ISS, but if not here you go: link . Also, the code of conduct in US law for the ISS: link.


Also, fun fact: the only official US/Russian extradition treaty explicitly covers crimes committed by astronauts while in space with each other.

Here's your extradition clause between the US, ESA member states, JAXA, and Russia (the only Russian/US extradition treaty there is at the moment):

"...If a Partner State which makes extradition conditional on the existence of a treaty receives a request for extradition from another Partner State with which it has no extradition treaty, it may at its option consider this Agreement as the legal basis for extradition in respect of the alleged misconduct on orbit. Extradition shall be subject to the procedural provisions and the other conditions of the law of the requested Partner State...."

Source (Section 22, Subsection 3 (Page 21 in the pdf)).


Just a reminder to take what you read on Vice with a grain of salt. Here's the obligatory /r/badhistory link: "Skylab 4 Rang in the New Year with Mutiny in Orbit" - A Christmas Fairytale.


Fun fact, technically nobody's allowed to make a medical Pronouncement of Death even if they are a qualified doctor in the air (this is a download link; see page 128), so anybody who's read the spec very carefully is going to feel obligated to call up ground control and be like "So, uh, we have ... what appears to be a dead body... "

Basically the procedure would be "do the minimum number of things required to neutralize any obvious immediate threats (such as restraining someone who has visibly thrown all his marbles out the airlock), notify the higher-ups of the emergency situation, and then treat it as being On Hold until everyone involved is on the ground", I think. Assuming the fictional murder took place somewhere the normal cameras wouldn't see it they'd probably also take pictures of the crime scene before moving the body.

Once on the ground it'd probably be a huge international incident, because the Outer Space Treaty (great name, right?) makes it pretty clear that a government is reasonable for the space actions of its people regardless of whether they were acting under government orders. Like, if an American astronaut murdered a Russian astronaut on the Space Station that's not just murder, because it's in agreed-upon neutral peaceful territory. That's an act of war.

* * *

> No country would ever actually go to war just for that, but it could possibly be a spark for an already very tense situation.

Quite right. That's why my example was the US and Russia - maximum potential plot drama. :P

* * *

If ever you have similar questions, the military and NASA standards are accessible online - I found that one via Google search. You have to have a pretty good idea of what you're looking for, though!


I suppose part of the answer to your question depends upon the background of the astronauts. If they are active duty U.S. military, then the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) will apply, and they'll be certainly subjected to a court-martial.

Otherwise, the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (better known as "the Outer Space Treaty") will apply. You can view the text of this treaty on the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs website, here. Article VIII of the Outer Space Treaty states the following:

“... A State Party to the Treaty on whose registry an object launched into outer space is carried shall retain jurisdiction and control over such object, and over any personnel thereof, while in outer space or on a celestial body...”

Therefore, it is safe to assume that the country which launches the crewmember will have jurisdiction over that crewmember. If for some reason a country conducting space operations is not a signatory to the Outer Space Treaty, however, then this may not apply to them. But it seems in your question this treaty would apply.

Now, the International Space Station also has a specific intergovernmental agreement concerning the ISS, which does cover criminal jurisdiction for crimes committed on the space station. That agreement can be found here, and you will find the section on criminal jurisdiction on page 21 of that document. The agreement states the following:

“... In a case involving misconduct on orbit that: (a) affects the life or safety of a national of another Partner State or (b) occurs in or on or causes damage to the flight element of another Partner State, the Partner State whose national is the alleged perpetrator shall, at the request of any affected Partner State, consult with such State concerning their respective prosecutorial interests...”

But this agreement only applies to the ISS, but if you wanted, your game could model a similar system for your DSS.

As to what would be done in the immediate aftermath of the crime, I am not sure there are procedures for this. NASA and its space partners probably have a plan to minimize crew safety risks, and would probably work on returning them to Earth as quickly as possible, but other than that I am not sure. As far as transport of the body, it would essentially become "cargo" but would most likely be strapped into a crew seat for re-entry, too be recovered upon landing back on Earth.


As far as I am aware there has been one incident of murder on a nuclear submarine the HMS Astute, when it was in port, with a severely drunken sailor which could not happen in space. The number of submariners is far above the number of people who have ever been in space. No the process isn't infallible, but it is good enough not to waste resources in creating procedures for events less likely to happen than catastrophic destruction of the station itself.

Well beyond tests. Years of training, observation and evaluation before going into space. First the initial selection which will weed out 99% of humanity: NASA chose 8 people out of 6,372 applications in 2013, we only have 46 flight ready astronauts.

Then 2 years from being chose as a candidate to qualification as an astronaut. Then several years waiting for your turn. The most recent group of people picked to go into space were chosen in 2009. None of the 2013 class have gone yet.

After graduating as an astronaut 18 additional months preparing for the specific ISS mission. In all likelihood the first 18 months stint is going to be training as an alternate who won't go, so another 18 months training as the primary for a mission.

Can someone sneak by. Sure it's possible. It's such a low probability that it's only a matter for fiction writers to concern themselves with.

* * *

Yes I am aware. We have had one incident with someone who wasn't in space, committing an act that couldn't have been done in space, over a relationship that couldn't have developed in space as it involved over 100 phone calls and excessive time spent with each other and a third person whom the crazy didn't know. After which NASA reviewed their policies and added additional psychological training for their flight surgeons.


However, in Richard's scenario (as well as in the real world) there are multiple nationalities on-board the space station and therefore NASA doesn't screen all of the applicants. Furthermore, given that he is producing fiction, it is not inconceivable that there be something sinister working there, such as an assassination, political tension (USA nukes Japan during their mission), etcetera, leading to the murder. Moreover, it is naive to think that just by screening you can be 100% sure there will be no murdering.

Obviously with the amount of people spent to space being very very small, just the normal statistics virtually ensure there will be 0 murders. However, as you multiply the amount of people per year by e.g. 100, and look at a time period of 100, there's suddenly a factor of 10000 to take into account in the statistical analysis. Add in a little fictional make-believe and a murder in space is realistically a likely enough scenario that there is at least going to be a formal set of rules of how to deal with it.


No member nation has ever needed to implement anything close to this yet. Astronauts are very carefully chosen for temperament and most know they'd never fly again for minor infractions. Still, this kind of random information floats around and, as one of those cliche people with multiple unfinished books, it has all the makings to the start to a great space-crime novel.


There is a thing called Space Law but I'm not sure if it touches on murder, at least yet: link.

Science advisor insights

At the final part of the update I also feel like to share the science and ideas Sebastian shared about the matter in hand. Traditionally, I've marked with bold those parts that had me pondering on them since in a way they should affect gameplay and story.

We actually did touch upon that subject briefly during the lectures I had. On the ISS it is first important that Russia has jurisdiction in its modules and as has the US in nearly all the other modules. While technically, ESA has jurisdiction over Columbus, since Columbus can’t take care of itself, it does not have any. So, if you’re in a Russian module, Russians are chiefs; all other modules: NASA. So yes, space stations are extra-territorials of the country possessing it.

Now the following is a rather meek recollection of my part, so it may not be accurate. On every mission, there is a commander, the captain. As long as you are in space, his word is law (just as on the sea); though, once you’re back on ground he can be tried for all he has done (again, just like on the sea). However, on the station, you have a station commander, who is in charge. On the ISS, you usually have two commanders, one Russian and one US, even if one of them is informal. If you look at Wikipedia, you will notice that commanders change between US and Russia — there is a strong drive for balance.

Before I go into some possible scenarios, keep in mind that every single person going on a mission has been screened so profoundly, that their psychiatrists probably think they know them better then themselves. So resorting to violence is highly unlikely. Especially since it is difficult to survive on most missions if you get more than a single crew member incapacitated. When on smaller missions, loss of any one single member is already a problem. Also, keep in mind that there isn’t anywhere on the station where you can isolate someone. Multiple reasons:

Shared LSS (Life support system), so whatever chemicals go in from the containment module go everywhere;

Shared power and data, so it is possible, if quite difficult due to safeguards and e.g. circuit breakers, to contaminate the rest of the station;

Manual overrides for all locks etc. from both sides;

No possibility to [relieve] yourself except in certain points, which are central and surely not in the “containment” module;

No way to pass food etc. without opening the door and risking a fight;

All sensory, power, data, oxygen etc. lines are on the inside, so accessible, so — plenty of options for sabotage.

What is the alternative? Keep the person [restrained] — well that would work, but it is not really practicable. So on larger stations, which are permanently manned, I would suppose that there is some form of “minimum survival module," maybe the first module to arrive and serve as initial base, which has later been repurposed as containment module — but it needs to have been built that way from the beginning. Possible.

Now, for the questions posted:

Murder is very serious — during EVA there isn’t much you can do — but you’d be daft to try it, as someone on the inside needs to let you back in and could effectively deny entry to the station. Though, difficult because all locks are intended to be able to be overridden, but you could still physically block them. So the person will simply die of oxygen starvation. Most likely, I would guess that all others would immediately try and get away and back into the station — no reason to retain the guy, as he’ll have to come back anyway. And when he comes back (and is let back on, which will be a point of discussion) they’ll likely stuff him in a containment module. On the ISS I guess it would be mission abortion and emergency descent as soon as another rocket can be prepared.

Murder inside with murder being unclear would be difficult — no one is prepared for this. So complete question marks with everyone. I guess the entire mission would be aborted, everyone would be ordered back to base as quickly as possible, while a replacement team would be sent asap. In the meantime, there would be strict rules that no-one is to be left alone, all people keep cams or similar on them and report regularly. I would suppose though that DSS would have full-scale CCTV, as the station is big and there are few people on board, so you need to be able to quickly ascertain the situation no matter where you are on the station and moving there would be difficult. With modern technology, CCTV would likely be accessible from tablets or similar anywhere in the station thanks to Wi-Fi. Witnessed murder would be similar to EVA.

The secondary questions:

Senior crew should remain calm and try to talk the guy through what he did and get the reasons. The person must be restraint at all costs (even if it kills him), as the most important part is to keep the station functioning.

Mission Director on ground must immediately prepare emergency relief, organize an emergency start and crew, as well as return mission; he must also immediately take legal council.

The body would be placed tethered in vacuum; there, it is shock frozen. Not the most beautiful, but the only practicable solution. Maybe the body would be placed inside a space suit, to protect it; however, if the body has already gone rigid, this is not possible.

Murderer would be restraint at all costs.

The other crew would be shaken and would likely stand even closer together. I guess this is a trauma, which is difficult to cope with. If the murder was not discovered, this would be akin to mass paranoia, I guess.

Jurisdiction belongs to the country which owns the module, except for “guest modules”, such as Columbus etc. — so on ISS only Russia or US

Hope that helps!

Guys, please keep in mind that today's topic/question is not a spoiler. I do not say that you can, definitely, expect some murder aboard the DSS. I drafted the core scenario for the Daedalus two years ago, and there are still many interesting and important issues like that I'd like to clarify before using them in real writing, scripting, staging and gameplay. If you endorse my approach, stay tuned and feel free to support the development on Patreon: Daedalus Video Game.

Thanks for the rooting and sharing!