5 min read

Space Should Not Be Lawless

While it is important to learn from climate activism, only focusing on the negative of bringing forth regulation puts us in a defeatist mindset.
Space Should Not Be Lawless
Photo by Nicolas Lobos / Unsplash

About The Last Two Weeks...

I recently spoke at The Great Debate of the European Geophysical Union conference. The title was "Thrills and Dangers of Extending Human Impact Beyond Our Planetary Boundaries" a conversation that touched on the positive and negative of human exploration and use of the heavens. I love space. I want to go there and travel to the stars. But I had to be on the more negative side of things, raising the issues that we currently face. Ultimately, it's because I love space that it is important that we do it right.  And we are not.

This isn't going to be "should we build expensive telescopes or expensive spacecraft when people are dying here on Earth," because I find that to be a very disingenuous argument. There is merit to discuss how to best fund science and what's best to fund, but until those people ask that question first to military budgets across the world, or fossil fuel subsidies, or billionaires for their tax evasions, it appears to me that they do not really care about the people dying on Earth. Just about research.

But even if you don't care about astronomy and space exploration in its purest form, the effects of space cannot be separated from how we live our modern lives, from communications to navigation to information. And in a way, it shouldn't be separate. It's not just about convenience. Having an eye on Earth from space protects us and helps us react with more information to natural disasters. Another argument that can be made is how technologies designed for space are then translated into technologies we use daily.

If someone complains about space exploration for the sake of complaining, this is my reaction:

And again, this argument exists on its own without even going on about how astronomical observations and planetary exploration are something that we do to enrich all humanity. Because we are trying to answer questions that we have all wondered since humanity has been walking on the face of this planet. Why are we here? How are we here? Are we alone?

In a nutshell, this is my argument. But scientific and technological progress cannot be unregulated. Science is a tool, a human tool, and with that it can be used for good or evil, to help or to harm. It is paramount that laws are put in place to protect space for multiple reasons.

Space, and especially other bodies in the solar system, are not there for the exclusive benefit of humanity. Plans to start mining and occupying other worlds are well underway, and where are the regulations?

The night sky is being dramatically altered by the massive increase in satellites being deployed, first and foremost by Elon Musk's Starlink. This is not a hyperbole. Most satellites in orbit are now Starlink and the promise that it was a way to bring internet to everyone on the planet is frankly bullshit given its high cost. Musk is also using it in favour of the Russian invaders when it comes to the war in Ukraine. How can billionaires have so much power over what goes up and goes on in space?

In one of our fictional podcasts, we covered how stupid Musk's idea of nuking Mars to terraform it is. And our guest that episode Anuradha Damale stressed just how weak the current laws and regulations are. I suggested the need to strengthen them during the Great Debate. This includes fines for companies and countries that break them. A retort then was that fines and other measures like these are routinely ignored. (I did jokingly suggest guillotines as an alternative!)

The more I think about it, the more angry I am though. It is absolutely maddening that corporations and countries feel like they can simply ignore international law, whether this is about greenhouse emissions or outer space. And the fact that they might do, doesn't mean we shouldn't still push forward with those stronger rules.

Better space science and planetary science are possible. Starting from how we do things here on Earth. Because the issues are abundant from material extractions to where the rockets ARE launched from, and how little protections those around those sites have (citing SpaceX, but let's not pretend that this is an isolated example). If we continue to approach space exploration how we have approached everything else, we will find ourselves, once again, with enormous problems with no technical solutions (see anything, really). If we end up like that after we have imagined ourselves as explorers of the galaxies in tv series, movies, video games, and books, it will truly be a failure of our imaginations.  

From The Astroholic Explains

Well, topical for the above conversation - Chris wondered if planetary exploration, whether robotic or human, can only be powered by solar and nuclear energy. We got Dr Victoria Hartwick telling us all about how wind energy can be used on Mars.


One is about Quaoar, a dwarf planet at the edge of the solar system that has rings where it shouldn't have. And we all love things that go against our dear old models!

Dwarf Planet Quaoar Has A Second Explanation-Defying Ring
This distant world is making a mockery of our understanding of celestial rings.

The second story is a game of shadow puppets done by newly born planets on the disk of material around a star. As these planets move with lots of debris in their orbits, they cast a shadow that has been observed moving by Hubble.

Shadows Of Forming Planets Tracked By Hubble
TW Hydrae is a very young system with something unique going on.

Currently playing - Jedi Survivor. I'm only a few hours in but I am really enjoying this sequel. I like that you don't start back from zero in terms of skill (common in sequels) and you are actually building some new ones.

Recipe of the Fortnight

Feta-Stuffed Grilled Flatbread Recipe
Stuffing flatbread with feta and herbs adds great flavor and an herbal, creamy surprise if you don’t know what’s in them Feel free to use this recipe as a jumping off point for your own stuffings The honeyed, whole-wheat-flecked dough works especially well with strong flavors like olives, capers, an…

I have tried this one and it was so yummy and morish!

Little Llywelyn sleeps like a grinning goblin!

Clue sleeping upside down next to the door