What does a spacefaring civilisation mean to me?
Dallas (2020) defines spacefaring nations as those who can independently build and launch spacecrafts, and whose citizens gain the benefits of space infrastructure, such as agriculture, disaster management, education, communications, GPS, and weather forecasting. Globally, only eleven countries can independently launch objects into space. Most common are nations and industries which can independently build space technologies but do not have launching facilities, or nations which can build spacecrafts in collaboration and knowledge sharing with other countries. There are also nations and industries which primarily use spatial data from other companies.
Variations in different nations ability to be spacefaring have resulted in unequal structures of access to space resources and the growth of relative inequalities from space benefits. Currently, the finite space of lower earth orbit is increasingly becoming dominated by governmental, military, and commercial interests from technologically advanced spacefaring nations. This dominance of outer space is leading to growing structural power inequalities in control over the production and use space technologies. The resources produced by space technologies are narrowing in the hands of a few global elites. With little regulations governing the equitable sharing of low-earth orbit, colonial inequalities of control over resources have the potential to be reproduced (MacDonald, 2007). Also, the increased cluttering of outer space reduces the ability of many nations in the Global South, who are developing capabilities in producing spacecrafts, to use space for socio-economic development purposes.
The word civilisation, when applied to the globe as a whole, suggests a unity which transcends national barriers. Therefore, a spacefaring civilisation can be defined as one where structural relations governing access to space resources are reduced, and space is used for socio-economic development with the benefits of space infrastructure being distributed more equally across the globe. The principles of global commons, such as notions of distributional justice and equitable benefit sharing, if applied to space, could aid strives to become a spacefaring civilisation.
Dallas, J.A., Raval, S., Gaitan, J.P.A., Saydam, S., Dempster, A.G., 2020. Mining beyond earth for sustainable development: Will humanity benefit from resource extraction in outer space? Acta Astronaut. 167, 181–188.
MacDonald, F., 2007. Anti-Astropolitik — outer space and the orbit of geography. Prog. Hum. Geogr. 31, 592–615. https://doi.org/10.1177/0309132507081492
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