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Astropolitics: A Political Theory for Space

Thu, November 7, 10:30am to 12:00pm, Wyndham Philadelphia Hotel, Floor: Lobby Level, Betsy Ross II


Humankind has maintained at least one member of the species in outer space every single day, without interruption since the first year of this millennium. More than this, NASA’s chief administrator announced in August that once the International Space Station is decommissioned, there would be no lapse when humanity will have no representative in space. The conclusion cannot be any clearer: if there is a minimum bar for space colonization, humans have already hit it as we have and intend to keep a permanent presence in space. Currently astronauts are bound by the laws of the country they live by on Earth, which is a perfectly functional ad hoc approach for people on short-term missions. But what about future generations who might live in space for years, or even a lifetime? This ground-clearing essay demonstrates the inapplicability of prominent liberal concepts to life in space, including legitimacy, political obligation, the right of exit, and circumstances of justice. In light of this failure, the paper then goes on to argue that three strands of political theory – the Black Ghetto, Epistemic Liberalism, and Liberalism of Fear – provide promise for theoretical insight into the political obligations to people in space. We stand at an inflection point as, to paraphrase Federalist 1, research not will determine whether societies beyond the Earth can live under good government with public policy derived from reflection or choice, or if they will be formed by accident and force.