This is Part 1 of a six-part response to Visions, Ventures, and Escape Velocities: A Collection of Space Futures, which is available for free from Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination thanks to a grant from NASA. I say “response” and not “review” because I intend to engage with the ideas presented from my own point of view.
Section I of VVEV is entitled Low Earth Orbit, and contains two short stories and three essays:
Vanguard 2.0, by Carter Scholtz
Reflections on the Dual Uses of Space Innovation, by G. Pascal Zachary
Mozart on the Kalahari, by Steven Barnes
Past Empires and the Future of Colonization in Low Earth Orbit, by William K. Storey
Expanding Our Solution Space: How We Can Build an Inclusive Future, by Deji Bryce Olukotun
On the surface, private property rights in space may seem like an innocuous, or even positive development. We are on the cusp of a real space age, as private companies begin exploring Earth orbit and our solar system. As a species, we need to come to an agreement over how space assets will be managed and regulated, and private property rights in space would be a major needed component of such an agreement. In general, commercial enterprise in space is good thing for expanding humanity’s reach into the solar system.
But the actual text of this bill raises questions of equity and corporate oversight for humanity’s future in space. The bill is a clear violation of a decades-old treaty that pledges to make space the peaceful domain of all of humanity. Without additional oversight, this law could legally change the role of the United States in space from guarantor of freedom to protector of profit.
I find the issues raised by the law timely, as my upcoming novel Red Soil through Our Fingers that imagines a future Mars where corporations own vast stretches of Mars.