THE COSMIC POLICE : ON GUARD IN THE FINAL FRONTIER
Space exploration, space tourism and off-world mining experiments are all now realities.
Within a decade : tourists are expected to be holidaying in space hotels, zipping around the moon for a closer look; both the Moon and Mars will be valuable sources of rare minerals and the raw materials needed to build vehicles and space stations in orbit, and robot explorers will have extensively mapped thousands of comets, larger meteors, planets and moons of the Solar System.
But with all this activity up there, will there ever be a need for an outer space police force?
The Cosmic Cops?
The likelihood of Earth nations getting in each other's way on the Moon or Mars or the deep void in between seems unlikely.
As Douglas Adams wrote : "Space is big. Really big."
There's enough Moon and Mars and space for every country to get its share.
But one US ethicist, at least, thinks : There will need an intergalactic police force to keep order in space and protect the interests of the vulnerable.
Dr Patrick Lin, of The Nanoethics Group....says we should be thinking about the ethical implications of future space exploration. And some kind of government or police force should be considered.
Lin doesn't believe that an earth-based government, ruling through the local space communities, will be the most effective way to run things, up there.
"Space has been long called 'the final frontier', but have we taken the time to consider what our responsibilities are as 'frontiersmen'?" says Lin.
Commercial space travel is becoming a reality, he says, and the public needs confidence that governments, scientists and astronauts are considering the consequences of exploring space.
For instance, Lin says we need a fair process for commercialising or claiming property in space to avoid what he calls the kind of 'chaotic land-grab' that occurred with internet domain names.
"We would not rush to develop the south pole without a well-thought plan, so the same reasonable precaution would seem to apply to colonising space," he says.
He says we should question the idea that space may provide an escape for us if our world becomes overpopulated and uninhabitable.