Home > Uncategorized > North Korea and the Politics of space exploration

North Korea and the Politics of space exploration

Although the scientific community purports to be an entity unto itself, we have witnessed an increase in the intersections between scientific progress and political influence in the past century. This pattern is most recently exemplified by the failure of a North Korean rocket launch last friday. The nature of the launch is a highly contentious subject; although North Korea maintains that the aim of the launch was to put a satellite into orbit, many people suspect that it disguised a test of long range missile technology that violates UN resolutions. 

More important than the launch’s technological failure is the political ramifications that it has incited. The White House and the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon have condemned the launch, and the UN security council is due to meet and discuss what measures should be taken with regards to North Korea. I find it personally fascinating that the missile’s scientific significance is so under-explored, particularly when compared to the political turmoil that it has caused among other nations. 

One aspect of the launch which I think has been neglected by the press are the possible reasons for its origination. One could argue that the competitive nature of technological development between nations originated with the space race; beginning in 1957 with the USSR’s launch of Sptunik 1. From that point on the US worked furiously to surpass their Russian counterparts. As more and more resources become available to more and more countries, this “race” continues to expand; simultaneously increasing the exposure to and volatility of the scientific subject at hand. 

The principal question in this uneasy climate is that of responsibility. Who should have access to the technology that can create missiles? Who is to delegate this? What power does a treaty or set of agreements really have over it’s assenting members? Clearly not much, and it remains to be seen what sort of restrictions will be legitimately effective in this particular field. We must also consider the costs of such limitations. To what extent should political interactions dictate the advancement of space research? Can progress be discredited or even destroyed because it originated with the wrong country? Such questions are crucial to the betterment and continuation of science exploration as a whole. 

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. April 16, 2012 at 10:51 pm

    The perspective on science as being a tool for political competition is not new for this world. Definitely, it all started during First World War and the invention of gas and tanks and pursued though the whole twentieth century. The pick of scientific completion was reached during the Cold War between capitalistic and communistic countries with the invention of Atomic bomb and the first flight to space. The ethical questions of science as a tool for political influence has been discussed and argued for past hundred years. The science is supposed to serve for the common benefits of the humanity, the use of science as a tool to kill or poison billions of people is shocking. In fact, the lessons learned from the Cold War could serve as an example “Where science can lead if used in wrong purposes”. Few times the world was on the edge of complete destruction: you push one button and both hemispheres would be blown up in few minutes. However, the humanity does not learn from its mistakes, we have Iran and its suspicious “scientific” activity and North Korea, launching its rockets. In that situation, sad thoughts are provoked: “Shall we all refuse from scientific progress for the safety of humanity”? or “How can we put limits on the rapid scientific development ?”

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