The international community has suffered an irreplaceable loss with the passing of Ernst Fasan. His intellect was keen, and his foresight unmatched.  Many tributes to Ernst mention his contagious smile, kindness, warmth, friendliness, humor, and professional excellence. And all who knew him recognized that he was inseparable from his inspiring and indefatigable wife, Gerti, who accompanied him to numerous International Astronautical Congresses and other professional gatherings around the world and perfectly complemented his personality.  Ernst had the uncanny ability to make everyone feel special.  My late wife Patricia Sterns and I were fortunate to have been close friends with Ernst and Gerti, meeting at the IAC and other events, visiting each other’s homes and traveling together on unforgettable post IAC tours to Svalbard and the Scottish highlands and Loch Ness.

Ernst’s life was a bridge from the 19th to the 21st centuries.  Born in 1926, he was raised in the classical European traditions of the prior century.  He was a gentleman in every respect. His classical upbringing led him to extrapolate to the future, and it may have been inevitable that he became interested in the possibility of contact with intelligent beings from other planets.  In 1970 he published the groundbreaking book Relations With Alien Intelligence: The Scientific Basis of Metalaw.  Whether by luck or fate, the library at my law school happened to have one of the very limited number of copies printed, and it was serendipitous that as a second year student I discovered it tucked away in the stacks with a few other books on space law.  I was astounded.  It was not even six years since the Apollo 11 moon landing, and who ever heard of space law.  Yet here was Ernst Fasan, a noted, respected and obviously highly intelligent international lawyer pondering matters that pushed the limits of the legal envelope.

Reading Ernst’s book was transformational and changed the direction of my life. In 2016 I had the opportunity to express my appreciation to Ernst when Patricia and I edited the book Private Law, Public Law, Metalaw and Public Policy in Space: A Liber Amicorum in Honor of Ernst Fasan.  Many members of the IISL contributed to the book, but without doubt the most important part is the second half, which is a reprinting of Ernst’s Metalaw book, complete with the original forwards and introductions by Wernher von Braun, Aldo Armando Cocca, Eugene Pepin and Hermann Oberth. There is a renewed interest in metalaw by the next generation of space lawyers and SETI researchers, and Ernst’s work no doubt will have a profound and lasting impact on them.  The publisher has made the reprint of Ernst’s book available as a download without charge at 

The Liber Amicorum contained a brief biography of Ernst which is reprinted below, with some minor revisions.  I extend my heartfelt condolences to Gerti and family and hope they find some comfort in the knowledge that Ernst touched the lives of so many people in so many positive ways.

Les Tennen


Ernst Leo Albin Fasan was born August, 1926, in Vienna, Austria, as the only child of the physician Dr. Leo Fasan and the philologist Dr. Irmgard Fasan, nee Taigner. He grew up in the house of his parents in Neunkirchen, Lower Austria. There he attended grade school, and then

high school in the nearby city of Wr. Neustadt. At the age of 16, together with his entire class, he was conscripted into the military. He was captured and became a prisoner of the Soviet Army, and was transported to the district of Wladimir. He was held for more than 2 years after theend of the war, and finally returned home in November, 1947.

Ernst immediately started law studies at the University of Vienna and earned his Doctor of Law degree in 1950. He practiced at the Vienna Courts and formed his own Law Office in Neunkirchen in 1955, where he continued to practice, together with several junior partners, until his retirement in 1994. He was an examiner of applicants of young judges and lawyers at the High Court in Vienna, and served as a judge at several Moot Courts.

In 1960 he was a founding member of the International Institute of Space Law. He became Secretary, and then Honorary Director of the Institute. He was one of the longest standing members of the International Academy of Astronautics. From 1994 to 2001 he was the Coordinator of the Annual Symposia at the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space in Vienna. He was a member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of Space Law, edited by the University of Mississippi. He was the author of two books, Weltraumrecht in 1965, and Relations with Alien Intelligences The Scientific Basis of Metalaw in 1970, as well as dozens of papers and addresses on space law since 1960.

In 1989 Ernst was instrumental in urging the IISL to support the IAA Committee on the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) to prepare a set of principles for the announcement and subsequent activities following the confirmed detection of extraterrestrial intelligence. These principles were articulated as protocols and presented by Ernst and Jill Tarter to the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS). The Report of this session of COPUOS was subsequently endorsed by the UN General Assembly.

Ernst served as a member of the Hermann Oberth Society – Internationaler Förderkreis W.v. Braun, H. Oberth, and as Chairman of its Space Law Section. He was awarded the Golden Hermann Oberth Ring, the Golden Wernher von Braun Medal, the Andrew Haley Award, and the IISL Lifetime Achievement Award.

Ernst Fasan was married to Gertrude, nee Albrecht, and was the father of three children and grandfather of two grandchildren.

Categories: 2021Memoriam