Lost in Space

17 April 2008

A Confusion of Concepts in Commentary on the Outer Space Treaty

Floating in outer space, by Laura Mary, with Creative Commons licenceOuter space is a huge concept. Its sheer scope eludes our Earth-bound brains, hinting at innumerable unknowns speckled across enormous distance. It is, in a sense, our one great uncertainty, surpassing metaphysical questions with an unfathomable physical presence. That’s why we have the Outer Space Treaty, signed under United Nations auspices in 1967 at the height of Cold War tensions.

The treaty offers a guide to how we can think about outer space and its possibilities, at least from an international relations perspective. But recent commentary on the treaty has become rather slippery, stumbling over notions that are marginally relevant to the final frontier.

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