Contrary to popular belief, the “Race for Space” has its beginnings traced back to as early as post-World War II; while the world was still reeling from the aftermath of the largest man-made catastrophe known to date then. Back in 1955, the US first announced its plans to launch artificial satellites into space. This “power-move” threatened the Soviet Union, which announced the launch of its own “Sputnik 1” and beat the US, to a practical launch. Thus, followed a close race between the two global powers, for a territory beyond our human comprehension.
Fast forward to modern day –the idea of inhabiting space has never been more possible, or arguably – in highest demand. Over the past few decades, knowledge and understanding of the universe around has expanded infinitely with the innovative advancements in science and technology. However, global research and development in the field, have allowed a new actor to enter into the playing field – private companies. As the sovereignty of global superpower countries diminishes, private actors (Amazon, SpaceX to name a couple) have risen to accumulate greater wealth and thus, power – than many nations themselves. At first, this may seem to reduce national competitiveness or conflicts, but it brings the ancient notion of capitalism into the discovery of the universe. Tourism and private-ownership of the moon and space itself is a concept that is no longer confined in a science-fiction fantasy. Billionaire and SpaceX CEO – Elon Musk’s declaration of his goal to build infrastructure on Mars in the next 30 years, is a fine example of one of the thousands of plans developed by hundreds of various space-exploration organizations. Mining missions to extract precious rocks from the moon, is also an example of another profit-making undertaking.
Ultimately, we have to ask, is the privatization and commercialization out of our supposed “no-man’s land” ethical? Can we allow billionaires to take private space trips, leaving the mass population to fend virus-outbreaks and climate change on our dying planet? What are the laws that protect our universal territory? Where do we draw boundaries – both physical and humane?
Director Publications, NUST Public Administration Society
Sunday Stance, YEF