What Space Exploration Can Contribute To The Political Conversation In the wake of the 2018 Midterms
How a thought exercise might introduce new politics
As I write this, three astronauts, each from a different country, are living and working together on a satellite orbiting Earth. International collaboration has been the crux of the International Space Station operations since the beginning of the program in the 1980s. The physical and engineering components have forever been a product of collaboration between international space programs, as have the training and crews. Investigating how this collaboration has been possible, while political tensions rise and fall surrounding Earth-based matters, is what we are interested in.
The ISS has been manned since 2000. In that time, international politics on earth have seen new treaties, new sanctions, new leaders, new wars. And within the United States, we’ve arrived at a point where political division impairs our ability to solve the Nation’s most pressing problems. All the while, the space station has consistently operated in partnership, across party lines and across international borders, as if immune to the politics of Earth.
Now accustomed to the idea of humans living in this foothold off-planet, and equipped with resulting knowledge, some have leapt to tackle the next challenge of human exploration: habitats on the Moon, and even Mars. A project of much larger scale and scope, can we hope for as productive and peaceful a collaboration on Mars as we have on the ISS?
Based on precedent, let’s assume that a colony or base off-planet is only possible through international collaboration and a degree of funding from national governments. If so, then each nation must not only continue to invest funds and resources into space exploration as a scientific, i.e. non-military, pursuit, but they must also continue to co-develop technologies and knowledge transparently.
If these assumptions are true, can we presume that a model based off of our existing systems would be successful? In the wake of the U.S. midterm elections, reports of division within the country are disheartening and seem irreconcilable. As a starting point, we should do our best to set this New World up for success. So a system that has revealed so many of its flaws over the almost 250 years since it’s founding appears to be more of a cautionary tale than a model to emulate. How can we turn this moment of division into an opportunity for unity?
Governments in Space
Let’s imagine that a coalition of private and public sector allies, from all around the world, have worked together to create a livable habitat on Mars. They have also developed a vessel that can transport the first citizens of Space to their new home. These individuals come from all around the world, have a wide range of skills and backgrounds, and are of all ages. They will be responsible for creating a society in this new world.
The opportunity of this moment is to design, from scratch, what the dynamics of that community would look like, at its founding, and as it grows. What would that society look like? Who would be in charge? Would there even be a designated leader? What would their forums look like, to exchange ideas and address problems or challenges?
What if we build on the precedent set by the ISS, rather than the precedent set by our current government?
Rather than propose a solution, I’m interested in proposing some food for thought:
- The parameters of designing a governmental structure in space would be different from those that define our satus quo on earth.
- Language and communication, overcoming diverse cultural norms, would be a area for consideration.
- The structure might draw from a multi-national body like the UN, or an operation like the ISS.
- As populations grow, the government must maintain the pulse of the people.
- Some form of communication and collaboration must exist with Earth, and all the countries involved in the space program.
- Space could either develop as a branch of the Military (think Space Force base on Mars) or as a branch of civilization (the the New World on Mars).
- Someone or some group must manage the growth and distribution of food and sustinance.
- There must be some form of currency or trade, based on any number of precedent methods or those yet to be tested.
- The community could develop from a group of volunteers from all walks of life, or an lot of expensive tickets available only to the elite.
*This point might depend on the state of the Earth when this scenario becomes reality.
- Unintended consequences need to be outlined and mitigated.
- The scenarios for abuse of power are many.
- The scenarios for harmony are inspiring, and are the standard we should aim for.
Around the world our politics are bringing out a Nationalistic bias within the populous that is consistent across continents. However, the worlds most pressing issues require global communication, partnership, and commitment towards a common goal. If we begin to design the ideal, harmonious governing system that could exist in a New World, we might uncover insights that can help us advance our quality of life as a Human race here on Earth.