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Would a ticket or employment contract involving a one-way trip to Mars, with the full knowledge that the astronaut will die on the Red Planet (if not before), be legal under US law?
Or would it run into the limits of contracts and issues around euthanasia, etc.?

Assume, if needed, that the organization on the other side of the contract is SpaceX, or Mars One.

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An important question would be the imminence of the death upon arrival.

If the traveler had no means of life support upon arrival this might be problematic. This looks a lot like a defective product death or euthanasia for someone who is not terminally ill, unless some legitimate scientific benefit is conferred by making the trip manned, in which case it would need human subjects research approval.

More generally, in this scenario, the motives and purposes involved would matter.

If the travel was simply going to continue his or her life on Mars and had some means of surviving that plausible might work for a sustained period of time, then it would be far less problematic. This looks more like a one way ticket to some survivable but unpleasant destination on Earth.

Consider replacing Mars with Antarctica or the Sahara desert in this scenario and considering how it would be evaluated in that situation.

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Tickets to America and Australia were legal "in the full knowledge that the person would die there": prior to the mid twentieth century (and relatively cheap intercontinental travel) emigration was effectively permanent.

Colonists were sent off with enough supplies and equipment to establish self-sustaining colony (hopefully - sometimes they didn't get this right) and that was the end of it. Of course, slaves, convicts and indentured servants were not always afforded this consideration.

Obviously the supplies and equipment to establish self-sustaining colony on Mars are considerably more than required for America or Australia and safety standards today are different than the sixteenth to nineteenth century but the principle is the same.

In essence, a one way ticket to Mars is not a death sentence- it's emigration.

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    Are the laws even the same, though? It seems that back then, people could more easily e.g. sign themselves away into slavery/"indentured servitude" than is supported by today's contract law. – WBT Feb 25 '17 at 6:02
  • You don't have a mortgage do you? That's the modern equivalent of indentured servitude. – Dale M Feb 25 '17 at 8:18
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    I really don't think it is. – WBT Feb 25 '17 at 14:08

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