The First Detectives Of The Final Frontier

By Nolan Moore on Friday, April 17, 2015
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“There is no branch of detective science which is so important and so much neglected as the art of tracing footsteps.” —Sherlock Holmes, “A Study in Scarlet”

In A Nutshell

Raymond Harris and Raymond Purdy aren’t just ordinary Earth-bound detectives. They’re space detectives. These guys catch crooks and expose crimes using satellite images and the occasional drone. And while they aren’t chasing down extraterrestrial thugs, they can definitely solve thefts, frauds, and environmental crimes.

The Whole Bushel

We live in pretty exciting times, especially in regards to outer space. People are talking about colonizing Mars, robots are crawling all over the Red Planet, and “space tourism” is actually a thing that exists outside of sci-fi novels.

Of course, it isn’t just NASA and billionaires like Elon Musk hoping to tame the final frontier. Lawyers want in on the action, too. As if there weren’t enough attorneys already just focused on Earth, the University of Nebraska and University of Mississippi recently announced they were offering degrees in space law. That’s right. Now you can become a space lawyer.

Students will study everything from “determining liability in commercial space accidents to who can legally take resources from a planet or moon.” Expect plenty of lawsuits when Martians start crashing into space tourists.

In addition to lawyers getting a piece of the interplanetary pie, we now live in a world where there’s an actual space detective agency. It doesn’t get much cooler than that. Founded by geography professor/satellite imaging specialist Raymond Harris and attorney Raymond Purdy, the Air & Space Evidence Ltd of London promises to crack cases that need a bird’s-eye view of the world . . . or an alien’s-eye view.

So let’s say you suspect a company is dumping chemical waste in the woods, or perhaps you think someone is vandalizing their own home to collect the insurance money. Maybe someone is digging for oil in a protected habitat, perhaps someone is committing war crimes in a third-world country, or maybe your irritating neighbor says your fence is on his property. Well, if you take your case to court, you can call the space detectives, and they’ll back you up with satellite imagery that’s bound to impress any judge or jury.

Now you’re probably wondering, “Why can’t I just find the info myself?” Well, it’s actually a bit more complicated than digging for images on Google Earth. If you want to find just the right photo, you’d have to hunt through gigantic databases of data, and that takes quite a bit of time. And if a satellite wasn’t working on a particular day, well, you wasted your day and your case falls to pieces.

Perhaps more importantly, it’s really easy to doctor photos, and you need to be able to prove when it was taken, where you found it, and how you got it. And that’s where Harris and Purdy come in. They’ve been studying satellite images for quite some time, and they know how to back up their claims and maneuver around the courtroom.

Now, sometimes you need super crystal clear images, and that’s where the drones come in. When a satellite simply won’t do, Harris and Purdy plan to use these fantastic flying machines to capture images with higher resolution. So if you think your two-timing spouse is parked in somebody else’s driveway, these guys could fly a drone over the house and snap a photo of the license plate number.

Of course, the space detectives can’t solve every crime. Murders and hit-and-runs are pretty difficult because they happen so quickly, and satellites probably aren’t going to capture those lighting-fast crimes. However, if the offense takes place over several hours or—even better—a week or two, Purdy and Harris can catch those crooks red-handed, whether they’re violating human rights, committing fraud, or destroying the environment.

Show Me The Proof

New Scientist: World’s first space detective agency launched
Motherboard: With Too Many Lawyers on Earth, You Can Now Become a Space Lawyer
The Independent: UK academics set up shop as the world’s first space detectives
Air & Space Evidence