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The Final Frontier?

Celestial findings have always held a strange fascination for me; in a world that is rapidly shrinking in its exposure and proximity, where better for one to turn to when it comes to daydreaming of adventure and the great unknown. As a humble Star Trek fanatic, I’ve been meaning to do a post all semester about space exploration but nothing quite relevant nor worthy of the topic caught my eye until this past week. 

US space entrepreneurs have just announced a venture to launch robotic prospectors in the hopes of bringing water and other precious minerals back to earth from certain asteroids. My initial reaction was one of overwhelming excitement, and I thought this would be plenty of inspiration for a post. The aftermath of this announcement however, turned out to be even more thought-provoking.

Frans von der Dunk, (quite the name) a professor of space-law at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, has publicly announced his opinion that the applicable legal-system, both in the US and internationally, must be further developed to catch up to this sort of technological innovation. Although there are certain treatises and pieces of legislative work that address the legalities of space-initiatives, such as the 1967 Outer Space Treaty which says that outer space constitutes a “global commons”, it is a field that is far too underdeveloped for this kind of mission.

My initial, admittedly not mature reaction, was not a positive one. Who is this Frans von der Dunk to limit the genius of today’s space cowboys? Having given it some thought though, I realize that his words of caution may be in our best interest. It is so tempting to throw caution to the wind and jump into an idea, a new project, so overwhelmed are we by the thrill of seeing inspiration materialize through hard work. This often blinds us to the repercussions of our actions, and disasters that could have been prevented by more careful planning have a way of coming out of the woodwork. The space race has been an area of contention for decades, and its parameters remain vaguely undefined. In the article I read, the authors compared this sort of project to deep-sea mining- what jurisdiction is applicable in such an alien environment? Who is responsible for the projects that go on there and the products they send back home? Should this be part of the public or private sector? Who can determine ownership and rights in a place that is physically beyond the realm of human control? 

I think that this is fascinating because it is one of the issues that our generation is going to have to contend with. Although I’ve accepted that I will probably never get to co-captain the USS Enterprise, I still value the importance of questions that bridge our life on Earth with the adventures and possibilities that outer space has to offer. What do you guys think? Where are our responsibilities in terms of this?

Here’s the link to the article to read more!http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120426134927.htm 


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