Saturday, February 23, 2008

United States 2006 Policy: Ownership of Space

The title is somewhat misleading, in that it stands for what is more or less not to the document:

"The United States rejects any claims to sovereignty by any nation over outer space or celestial bodies, or any portion thereof, and rejects any limitations on the fundamental right of the United States to operate in an acquire data from space.", U.S. National Space Policy

There doesn't appear to be any section in the policy to suggest that the U.S. would disallow themselves from taking control of aspects of space, as the assumption would be that the U.S. wouldn't and thus shouldn't mention it, or they would deem themselves empowered to seize aspects of space to fight... whichever war that may be plaguing the world at any time. Of course... how will space (likely the celestial bodies) be shared among humanity in research? With spatial commercialization, as well as war, establishing how research entities far beyond Earth's atmosphere function and who would be in charge of it. I theorize the UN or a similar power with the idea of representing Earth as a whole would be in charge of it, but a solution that simple would be miraculous in the event it held out in the long run. If we figure out how to efficiently colonize, or simply establish a colony, regardless of the initial cost, that has the capability of eventually producing its worth, then there's doubtless going to be debate about the power structure out there. It might not be a bad idea for such establishments to become self-governing, if not self-sufficient for awhile, in the event of a permanent presence.

In the end, I believe that there will be ownership issues to sort out that will likely come to be in the long-term, if it comes to be at all. Establishment of elsewhere in space will have politics tied in, but in what way may or may not be a total mystery from the thoughts at the present. One of my favorite authors, John Scalzi, had very interesting scenarios in his trilogy of Old Man's War, The Ghost Brigades, and especially the more politically focussed and final The Last Colony. In these books, humanity and its numerous colonies are all tightly governed by a greater power, the Colonial Union. The CU is technically all-powerful within humanity, as it is truly the power controlling the links to all colonies. They control communications, as well as having the definitive Department of Colonization (DoC) and the Colonial Defense Forces (CDF). Alltogether, the CU has total control of humanity in space matters (which is most of what concerns humanity, what with there being hundreds of other major sentient, space-faring races, many of which are actively at war with humanity). The CU, being all-controlling, has very important ups and downs. Some of the negatives include vice-like grip on information flow and massive secrecy, extremely aggressive space diplomacy, constant lying about greater intentions in space, non-democratic system, etc. Positives, however, include greater coordination of humanity's power as a result of being the sole power (no internal wars occur on an interplanetary scale, technology is for the most part freely circulating, etc). These books include massively advanced technology, including the ability to use multiple universes to instantaneously travel from one place to another, actually transferring conciousness from one body to another, nanotechnology that can assemble into incredible constructs extemely quickly, and the like. So given advances humanity may never have, how would we manage the power?

Monday, February 18, 2008

United States 2006 Policy: Scope

Space policy of various powers could easily be critical building blocks of any sort of unified space program in the future. In my search for such policies, I first found what the U.S. had to say in 2006. Considering my deep-space outlook (think edge of the known universe; kiloparsecs), I was mildly annoyed yet not really surprised to read this in the "Goals" section:

"Implement and sustain an innovative human and robotic exploration program with the objective of extending human presence across the solar system.", U.S. National Space Policy

Solar system? That's only one star! One star with only a handful of objects we give the 'dignity' of being called planets! Of course, we hardly know how blow a craft out to Pluto and get mere information back, never mind pushing the stakes up a few orders of magnitude and going off to the nearest star. This doesn't sound promising. With policy for recent times, the whole idea of going into space that we understand mostly in theory make it's way mostly into fantastical musings, like my own. Is that where they'll stay? I believe that step by step, we may yet reach beyond the boundaries of this star system, and to use something I've practically singlehandedly clich├ęd, to test the boundaries of beyond with matter we send to gather, and maybe even retrieve...

Monday, February 11, 2008

Space Policy in the Twenty First Century: War

War affects a lot of things, including... space. However, space is one of the things that affects war back. In the days of the Cold War, the war was primarily affecting space, and the race for the moon in turn affected how people looked at the war and the powers fighting it. This went back and made its mark on the war. The Cold War was greatly a war of internal stability too. Both the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. had to deal with raging problems of one kind or another at home, and it was ultimately the latter that couldn't deal with the problems it was coughing up and dissolved. Though the mission to the Moon, the previous, and the later missions didn't culminate in weapons and combat, they had the potential for incredible power. Though not used to nearly the fullest extent, these technologies have come to fruition. That being, there isn't much justification for using such power today. The consequences for launching an ICBM these days would be fierce, to put it very lightly. Still, defences against space-based offenses are researched and used (orbital defence systems). Back in the Cold War, there was still more direction. The book discussed the drive of Apollo, and how such motivation and money could possibly never be found again in space. That was the time when the war against communism drove America to those kinds of expenditures, but that's been over for awhile. I don't see the faintest sign or omen of a space race against Al-Qaeda.

I don't doubt that going much farther in space will require virtual world peace. Every power that has even a shred of usable resources and/or can cause chaos would need to be in on the program, or just not interrupt. A program could be anything previously mentioned, such as a mission to Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto... and simply further...

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Space Policy in the 21st Century (Lambright): Part 1

I was very fortunate when my dad handed me this book. Admittedly, he's found most of the material, and I've really been writing about what I read. I barely know where to look, be he's fixing that. Recently he gave me this book and told me that I really shouldn't lose this book. I've only read a small part of it, but I too now see it has much to tell me and anyone who would read it about how people think about space.

There are three underlying (and often overlying) goals in space that remain fairly constant that the book brought up: commercialization, science, and human exploration. The first is fairly well established in the form of satellite communication. Though that's the only major component that has any legs yet, it's still massive and has revolutionized how we send information across the planet. However, there isn't much else in the way of humanity's personal presence (the I.S.S. is first of all property of governments, and it's hardly a solid, permanent, bustling place). This goes into people actually being in space. Though there are plans for space tourism, a crewed mission to Mars doesn't have the technological strength to get there, have someone take a step, and fly back off. The shuttle is aging, and what can we do to replace it? Though an enduring design, we need something more efficiant. Maybe a new design for a ship, or maybe a new method of safely moving an object from the Earth would solve questions of efficiancy and safety, or just improve our current situation. One of the goals of the project is to find what we're working on right now for human spaceflight, but all I've seen so far is satellites and trips into low-G.

The last thought here is science. This looks like a completely different story. Thought it obviously hasn't gone far in getting people out into the void and has had some serious success in satellites and even materials develloped in space that we use on earth, the science behind it all is going mad with findings. We cannot go out and even examine a black hole with a robotic scout, nor can we send one to draw information from other stars, or floating space objects that could be rocks, gaseous masses, forms of dead star, or the great undefined forces that continue to puzzle us. However, we know they're there. We have seen these things, and we know what some of them are made of (namely stars, the ones that are on fire) by breaking down the spectrum of colours emitted. We 'see' black holes by the lack of any light escaping, and the trajectories of surrounding objects. We see galaxies as massive areas of illumination, we see supernovas when they occur, as the usual occurance (as far as we know) is violent enough to give off the light of a galaxy. We can observe other forms of radiation given off by such violent events, forming models of what we think happened. On the very deeply theoretical level, there are forces we don't understand at work, which is collectively referred to as 'dark matter'. Dark matter accounts for much more than normal matter, from what we can draw, and we only know it functions in ways that require us to rethink physics. Though much of this science doesn't do much for us down here, it's so fascinating many people can't take their eyes off of it. There's also speculation that some day we'll be hit by a meteor. Through several false alerts from objects that look threatening, it's still nice to know we'll see it coming. Through observing other celestial bodies we even know fairly well what the earth is doing around the Sun and where all the other planets are, their trajectories, etc. Withough actively doing much staring into the universe remains my funnest roller-coster ride of space talk.

Going into the book, I know that we the humans of Earth have our hands full trying not to annihilate ourselves. How many people care right now? Can we still afford to pursue these studies right now or ever?
What are we going to do anyway?