The New Frontier-
June 4, 2002 9:14 AM   Subscribe

The New Frontier- Preparing the law for settling on Mars. "Like the abandoned launch fields [at Cape Canveral], the Outer Space Treaty [of 1967] needs to have its valuable parts salvaged, and the dangerous ones demolished."
posted by Ty Webb (12 comments total)
Oh good *lord*.

Colonizing Mars is important. Creating a legal framework for that colonization will be a key part of that effort, and merits serious discussion.

So why are we allowing that discussion to be confused with nattering on about the eeeeevil U.N. and those meanandnasty environmentalists?

(Where do they get these people anyway? Maybe I've been hanging out with odd environmentalists but they tend to come in two camps: 1. pro-space settling and 2. don't care. Nothing like trawling the net for straw men to crank out the columns . . . )

(Could it be because we don't want to talk about global warming? Naw . . .)
posted by feckless at 9:41 AM on June 4, 2002

So, other than the semantics you agree?
posted by revbrian at 9:55 AM on June 4, 2002

You mean other than the (mostly) irrelevant demonization of two groups who (mostly) don't care about space one way or another?

Well, no.

I do agree with the reasoning in support of Mars colonization, always have.

I do not think the Outer Space Treaty was primarily a way to save money. Though the "what about our problems here on Earth?" issue is one that pro-space folks always have to contend with. And, since I don't share the authors' abhorrence of the U.N., I'm not automatically against U.N. oversight of potential colonies either. I think that there are pros and cons to all of the available options (national control, U.N. control, private control, other NGO control), that most likely some messy mix of all of the above would be the best option, and that most likely some messy mix of the above will be what actually happens. Although not necessarily the same mix.

I do like the idea of private settlements becoming self-ruling. They are correct to point out that such colonies might not like being put under U.N. control--but seem to not allow for them not liking U.S. control. What if they're Commie colonies? Or Green? Or French? (And, as conservatives, the potential for really scary corporate governance eludes them--company towns in space will be an attractive idea to some folks.)

So, yes, tinker with the Treaty, if that's the real point. But a multination and multicompany land-grab for Mars could get ugly fast, and international oversight and international (interplanetary?) law could help keep things civil. So don't ditch them.
posted by feckless at 10:31 AM on June 4, 2002

I just wonder why any nation would invest billions of dollars to then have no claim over the land they settle.

It would seem without that sovereignty there is little incentive for a government to subsidize colonization and at this point there is no profit motive for corporations.
posted by revbrian at 11:16 AM on June 4, 2002

There's really nothing on Mars that anybody could want. For instance, is there an international race to colonize Greenland? Why not? Greenland is a distant, inhospitable place, whose vast emptiness is ripe to accept the world's surplus population. Just like Mars. But just like Mars, no one in their right mind is interested having Greenland. There's nothing there. It's empty. Bare. Jejune. By the time Earth is in such desperate environmental straits that it becomes economically and existentially desireable to colonize Mars, the engineering and financial infrastructure necessarily to undertake such a colonization will have long ago collapsed. So forget about it.
posted by Faze at 11:40 AM on June 4, 2002

I think it has more to do with Mars being seen as a stepping stone toward exploring deeper into space, not just going because we need to some offload people.
posted by Localemperor at 12:59 PM on June 4, 2002

Yeah, but the deeper you get into space, the emptier it gets. It's earth or nothin', for this species.
posted by Faze at 1:22 PM on June 4, 2002

We should just use maritime law in space, people respect mutual treaties and contracts, everyone has the right to self defense, along with sovereignty over the airspace over their property (to a reasonable height).

Let it develop on its own, a gas powered ship would reach Alpha Centauri before the UN could come up with rules that would matter. This is truly a first-come, first serve frontier.
posted by insomnyuk at 1:33 PM on June 4, 2002

Ever the optimist, our Faze.
posted by ook at 1:52 PM on June 4, 2002

This was interesting:
Stripped of the bureaucratese, the memos explain that the Outer Space Treaty was a strategy by the State Department to raid NASA's budget. Limiting America's reach into space was a minor sacrifice for the greater good of taking money from NASA and giving the money to the State Department and other old-line Washington bureaucrats. Then, State could then ship the money, under the misleading label "foreign aid," to kleptocracies favored by the State Department. American tax money that could have produced amazing feats of exploration was instead delivered foreign dictators who used the money to enrich themselves, to subsidize destructive economic policies, and to further oppress their populations. Foreign governments benefited from this "aid," but foreign people were harmed.

Never mind that National Review stridently supported the underwriting of said kleptocracies as a bulwark against communism. For Kopel to try and float these arguments in NRO takes real chutzpah, or pure ignorance.
posted by Ty Webb at 3:13 PM on June 4, 2002

No, no, they're talking about the other kleptocracies. You know, the bad ones.
posted by feckless at 4:02 PM on June 4, 2002

Geez, you didn't really expect anything but jingoistic dumbassness from the National Review, did you?

Since the U.S. and Russia have largely turned their backs on manned spaceflight, I wouldn't be too surprised if the first people on Mars were Chinese, though it might take them another fifty years.
posted by mark13 at 8:56 AM on June 5, 2002

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