Space is the next great frontier for our civilization and becoming a multi-planetary species is one of the most important future forward achievements we can strive for. Humanity’s long-term survival is tied to this achievement.
This summer we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. It was a time to reflect on what has been achieved since the infamous space race in the 1960s and 1970s. Critics will be quick to point out that we have yet to get to the next level of achievement, even though, the players and initiatives have multiplied exponentially the past five decades.
The truth is the new space era is more inclusive and diverse than it’s ever been. Despite obvious hurdles, more women are joining the ranks and traveling off world. The private sector initiatives rival national initiatives, and together they have formed uncommon collaborations that may get us to our goals faster. This is why, says our cover story author, Allyson Berri, this is not exactly a race—at least not in the sense of what we witnessed 50 years ago with the moonshot.
So, what does it mean for international relations? We have covered space diplomacy quite a bit the past several years. In May this year I wrote for the B20 Summit publication about how private sector initiatives and renewed funding for national initiatives will expedite our ability to commercialize outer space.
But outer space remains a diplomatic ambiguity. In fact, the question of where airspace ends and outer space begins is a very important one. International treaties define space as free for exploration and use by all. However, as the airspace above countries remains sovereign, in the event that nations have a different definition of where the boundary between these two spaces is, a conflict of interest could arise between countries and private companies as the space tourism industry and other commercial space ventures continue to develop.
No universally accepted formal definition has been adopted, an issue that will undoubtedly cause many problems for the private space tourism industry as it continues to develop. This is but one of several cases where progress and exploration are ahead of legislation and regulation.
While space exploration has not quite made it to this year’s UNGA agenda—or other global leadership forums, for that matter—the accelerated way with which the industry is moving forward demands a multilateral approach. Sooner or later, nations will have to come to an agreement on the formal definition of boundaries between the Earth’s atmosphere and outer space. We will look forward to convening the first such interdisciplinary forum on the “Future Off World Civilization” together with our partners at our World in 2050 initiative next year. We hope you will join us and share your own vision for what the future of space travel will be.