Extraterrestrial law is still an emerging legal discipline, but Rebecca Bresnik has served NASA for more than a decade in that field, most notably as lead attorney for the International Space Station. She advises on everything from U.S.-Russian transportation agreements to the future commercialization of the ISS and other ventures.
Growing up in Pompton Plains, New Jersey, Bresnik CLAW’99 had, in her words, “a great interest in anything international” and hoped to make a difference by working in the government sector. After earning her law degree and completing a clerkship in Camden, she began working for the Air Force General Counsel’s Office at the Pentagon.
Her career was already well-established when she met Randy Bresnik, a Marine Corp pilot. As with many couples pursuing lives of public service, their relationship endured frequent separations. But it eventually took on an astonishing synergy as test pilot Bresnik entered NASA’s astronaut training program and, soon after, attorney Bresnik began her tenure at the Houston-based Johnson Space Center.
“It has been incredible to be at the forefront of this area of the law,” she says. Noting that America “has always been a leader in space exploration and should continue to be,” Bresnik at the same time emphasizes the cooperative nature of her work. It draws on many different antecedents, from contract and commercial law to a variety of treaties, enabling NASA to “forge ahead via international coalitions and partnerships.”
A new product of this cooperation, still in a conceptual stage, is the lunar orbital outpost called Gateway. “I am currently advising on Gateway as we begin discussions with our commercial and global partners,” says Bresnik. Gateway will be “an international, U.S.-led program” that helps “facilitate new exploration of the Moon and ultimately human missions to Mars.”
Asked if she has any interest in traveling into space herself, Bresnik jokes that it would offer “an amazing date night” with her husband (pictured above aboard the ISS, sporting Rutgers Law gear). On a more serious level, she envisions a day when “traveling to space is as commonplace as taking a vacation, and everyone will be able to see the amazing beauty of Earth from above.”
When that day comes, it will be due in no small part to her professional achievements.