In memoriam: S. Neil Hosenball (1925-2009)

Our member S. Neil Hosenball passed away on 23 December 2009. He was born in New York, and was a graduate of Harvard University law school.

He was a lawyer in Cleveland before joining the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). After many years as Deputy General Counsel, Dr. Hosenball served as NASA’s General Counsel from 1975-1985. He participated in the drafting of the UN treaties on the peaceful uses of outer space, among other issues.

Through his work in UNCOPUOS, Dr. Hosenball was key in formulating and negotiating the 1979 Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies.

He received a Presidential Rank Award in the early 1980s.

After retiring from NASA, he was appointed as the first Director of the Center for Space Law and Policy at the University of Colorado. He became a partner at Davis, Graham and Stubbs, where he started a space law practice.

Dr S. Neil Hosenball was a longtime and dedicated member of the IISL and a recipient of its Certificate of Merit in 1985.

Stephen Doyle adds:

During the late 1970s and early 1980s Neil and I worked together on UN delegations, ITU matters, and other international agreement activities involving space. 

Mr. Hosenball served on or led US Delegations to the Legal Subcommittee of the UN-COPUOS during the 1970s when the committee was considering the 1972 Convention on Liability, the 1975 Convention on Registration of Space Objects, and negotiations leading to the 1979 Moon Treaty, which entered into force in 1984. Mr. Hosenball participated occasionally at collooquia of the IISL during his years at NASA, but as a senior government official, he avoided accepting positions of office or directorship of NGOs. He was a diligent negotiator and a creative attorney who made significant contributions to the development of space law, especially during the years he served as General Counsel to NASA.

Nandasiri Jasentuliyana adds:

Neil was one of the most effective US negotiators in the UN-COPUOS perhaps because he was the least confrontational under all circumstances and maintaining a very friendly approach though because of his sharpness remained a super negotiator always getting what he considered was reasonable to get (nothing more nothing less). 

He wrote perhaps the most authoritative academic articles on the treaties he had negotiated. They appeared in the Journal of Space Law.

He contributed equally authoritative chapter in my Manual on Space Law. Neil as a member of IISL presented a couple of papers. He was a good friend and a wonderful human being.

Eugeniusz Wyzner adds:

As Neil Hosenball was a member and eventually head of the United States delegation to the Legal Subcommittee of COPUOS throughout the years when I served as its chairman, we worked closely together, in particular during the sessions of the Subcommittee. Neil was not only an outstanding scholar of Outer Space law, but also a skillful negotiator with a vision of a common goal and a true, reliable friend. 

In Neil Hosenball’s capacity as NASA General Counsel he had been drafting the instructions for the US delegation to the Subcommittee. He told me once half-jokingly that this made it easier for him to be more flexible in negotiating provisions of Outer Space treaties as the head of the US delegation. Indeed, his negotiating skills and expertise greatly contributed to the codification of Outer Space law in the form of universal treaties (where every word had to be approved by consensus), a significant achievement in the era of Cold War.

Michel Bourély, Former Legal Adviser, ESA adds:

Dans ma carrière à l’ESA, j’avais eu à affronter Neil Hosenball comme adversaire dans une difficile négociation avec la NASA. Je connaissais donc ses grandes qualités professionnelles, auxquelles je tiens à rendre hommage aujourd’hui.