Reconfiguring Outer Space Policy: Vulnerabilities and Responsibilities in Humanizing the Universe

Friday, July 18, 2014: 11:00 AM
Room: 315
Oral Presentation
Mónica TRUNINGER , University of Lisbon (VAT Number 506 101 347), Lisbon, Portugal
Justin WALSH , Chapman University, Orange, CA
Vera ASSIS FERNANDES , Leibniz-Institut für Evolutions- und Biodiversitätsforschung, Berlin, Germany
Space exploration programs launched by emergent spacefaring countries such as China and India, together with private attempts to democratize space for the masses (e.g., space tourism offered by Virgin Galactic) are growing quickly despite difficult economic times. These processes together with the increasing technological apparatus at the geostationary orbit are deemed as examples of the ‘humanization of the universe’ (Dickens and Ormrod, 2007). That is, the many ways humans may affect non-human cosmic bodies (e.g. potential environmental impacts of space exploration). Space and its exploration are subjects with “contemporary resonances in popular culture, frontier capitalism, and the restructuring of superpower status in the coming century” (Parker and Bell, 2009: 4). In this paper we aim at critically reflecting about some of the future consequences of space exploration by unpacking and extending the concept of planetary protection. This concept, located in space policy literature, is mainly confined to risks of biological contamination when transporting objects and people to outer space. We identify its primary limitations such as the damage caused to non-biological features and address some of its shortcomings through a multidisciplinary approach with a critical reading of the sustainable development literature. The paper suggests that there are a variety of important reasons for expanding the concept of planetary protection to include contemporary ethical approaches to the environment that will enable mitigation of possible future impacts.