Casey Ward | United States
“We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology.”-Carl Sagan
The U.N. Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUS) has written many laws and treaties, but all they do is show how little governments understand about space. While the intentions are typically well-meaning, such as Article I and II declaring that space is free for the exploration of all nations and that space objects are to be used exclusively for peaceful purposes. It is also stated under Article IV that no weapons of mass destruction are permitted in outer space. No matter how well intended these treaties are they are ignorant of basic science, and we can see this with a grain of sand and some math. Theoretically, a grain of sand could destroy the earth if you put 2.23×10^34 watts of energy into it, that’d be enough force to create a blast of 2.24×10^32 Joules, roughly equivalent to 6,612 Tsar Bomba, the largest nuclear bomb ever built. Of course, that is next to impossible, but the science is clear, force equals mass times acceleration, thus, any object or ship could be of mass destruction if it crashes into earth.
All law is arbitrary and set for what is the popular opinion, which becomes even more difficult with larger populations. Furthermore, space exacerbates the cultural and legal issues we already face today. A major part of the law is enforceability, the vast void of space making it pointless to try hunting someone down, for example, a colonist on the moon has “illegal” drugs. Trying to regulate a society on the outskirts of our solar system or even outside of it, with the estimated population of humanity and the area we inhabit rising, the future of legal systems seems uncertain. Today we have a complex and confusing legal code. In the near future, this must be simplified for humanity to keep any resemblance of a coherent culture.
Space presents great opportunity for human expansion. Space makes it impossible to govern someone since there’s no point to writing a law for someone that you could never get to in your lifetime, or theirs. If we assume that humans will continue to develop life extension technology they could just run indefinitely as discussed earlier. On top of that the society would advance at different rates and in different directions, making it even harder for politicians to make laws since they don’t know what to ban nor from whom. Who then would bear the high cost of colonizing planets or building rotating habitats? In the past and even still today that has fallen upon governments but more and more private firms are setting their sights toward the sky. SpaceX is the most notable with their plan to get to Mars starting in 2022 and have people colonizing the red planet by 2028. Other significant space firms are Virgin Galactic who is trying to build a fleet of spacecraft, Obayashi Corporation who launched two satellites to survey for the space elevator they are trying to engineer by 2030, and Planetary Resources who is planning asteroid mining missions. From the looks of it, the future is best left to the free market to colonize space, and rightfully so.
Even Amazon’s Jeff Bezos is getting into the race with his company Blue Origin, he also predicts a population of over 1,000,000,000,000 people in the near future comparing the private space race to the explosion of the internet. And just like the internet, experimentation was started by the government but as soon as the free market took hold it exploded with innovation, wealth creation and, most importantly, bettering people’s lives.
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