1. bookVolume 10 (2021): Issue 4 (December 2021)
Journal Details
First Published
03 Oct 2014
Publication timeframe
4 times per year
access type Open Access

Unbound: Ethics, Law, Sustainability, and the New Space Race

Published Online: 20 Nov 2021
Page range: 1 - 17
Journal Details
First Published
03 Oct 2014
Publication timeframe
4 times per year

We are witnessing a new space race. A half century after the last Moon landing, and after a decade during which the United States could not launch its own astronauts to Earth orbit, there is new energy in the space activity. China has huge ambitions to rival or eclipse America as the major space power, and other countries are developing space programs. However, perhaps the greatest excitement attaches to the entrepreneurs who are trying to create a new business model for space travel based initially on tourism, and eventually, on colonizing the Moon and Mars and harvesting resources from asteroids. This paper presents a snapshot of the new space race and the rich men behind it, and it looks at some of the ethical and legal issues raised by this activity. The methodology is to consider the stated ambitions of the men leading private space companies, compare and contrast the space endeavor with earlier episodes of exploration and transportation innovation, review the regulatory environment for outer space, and consider two divergent scenarios for the future. Opinions are divided on whether commercial space flight is an expensive indulgence or potentially a way to find sustainability solutions for our life on Earth. It is concluded that the new space race can be characterized as unbounded: in ambition, in terms of laws and regulations, and in terms of ethical constraints on the activity.


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