Monday, July 10, 2017

The Outer Space Treaty Has as Much Relevance as Ever Even if Now Violated #Science #Space #Politics

A lot has changed since the Outer Space Treaty was signed in 1967. 

Credit: NASA Image and Video Library

In 1967, the Cold War superpowers were continuing to develop inter-continental ballistic missiles capable of destroying entire cities and taking the lives of all their inhabitants. In that context, the OST set a delicate balance between the strategic interests of the US and the USSR in space. At the same time, the OST elevated the interests of humanity in outer space above the parochial interests of individual states. Appearing in person for the signing of the treaty, US President Lyndon Johnson said: "This is an inspiring moment in the history of the human race."

Indeed, the treaty has (thus far) successfully created an environment that has prevented warfare in space. Its binding provisions are not only legally defensible, but have also historically reinforced an overwhelming political dynamic to refrain from overt military action in space.

The treaty is, however, expressed in broad statements of principle; such as, that the exploration and use of outer space "shall be the province of all mankind" – or "humanity" in more gender-enlightened times. This was necessary in the geopolitical context. Broad statements of principle were sufficient to regulate relations between space-faring states in the first several decades of space exploration and use, while allowing some flexibility to those same states.

However, as space has become more accessible and commercialised, those broad statements of principle are, in our view, still necessary but no longer sufficient. They need to be supplemented – but not replaced.  As the world embraces space, the 50-year-old Outer Space Treaty needs adaptation

That's an incredibly soft way to say America came up with the Outer Space Treaty and honored it specifically at NASA but did the opposite with military programs which it classified and sent to the Dark Net so no-one could see what they were doing.  That's been abused for decades and the capper was when VP Mike Pence was going on about the Space Force to put American military boots on Mars which we assume to mean humans but it was never clear either what Obama meant when he referred to boots on the ground.

The reason for doing this was announced as the need to ensure the security of American interests in space.

Pause for reality checkpoint.  Take a look at the Milky Way and all the billions or trillions of stars.  Do you seriously believe the American military in or out of space is anything more than a ridiculous local amusement in the face of that.

It looks like Mike Pence's only view of space travel came from watching "Starship Troopers" and he has a secret dream of being one of Rico's Roughnecks.  That movie is typical of a number which show the American military going to defend some planet as if any interstellar civilization will need an infantry with jazzed-up machine guns.

"Starship Troopers" was actually Robert Heinlein's parody of a neo-Fascist future society but that doesn't seem to have registered much with fans and it didn't apparently register at all with Mike Pence.

The Outer Space Treaty took a much longer view and well beyond that of individual allegiances or national priorities.  We have seen how the International Space Station has exemplified that standard since there may be astronauts from almost anywhere on Earth in participation at any given time.

It wasn't the Outer Space Treaty which went out of date but rather the morality which existed to honestly support and honor it.

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