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Early View

Chris Impey is a University Distinguished Professor of Astronomy at the University of Arizona. He has over 210 refereed publications on observational cosmology, galaxies, and quasars, and his research has been supported by $20 million in NASA and NSF grants. He has won eleven teaching awards and has taught two online classes with over 300,000 enrolled and 4 million minutes of video lectures watched. Chris Impey is a past Vice President of the American Astronomical Society, and he has won its Education Prize. He’s also been an NSF Distinguished Teaching Scholar, Carnegie Council’s Arizona Professor of the Year, and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor. He has written 70 popular articles on cosmology, astrobiology and education, two textbooks, a novel called Shadow World, and eight popular science books: The Living Cosmos, How It Ends, Talking About Life, How It Began, Dreams of Other Worlds, Humble Before the Void, Beyond: The Future of Space Travel, and Einstein’s Monsters: The Life and Times of Black Holes.

ARTICLE:

Unbound: Ethics, Law, Sustainability, and the New Space Race

autor: Chris Impey,

We are witnessing a new space race. A half century after the last Moon landing, and after a decade during which the United States could not launch its own astronauts to Earth orbit, there is new energy in the space activity. China has huge ambitions to rival or eclipse America as the major space power, and other countries are developing space programs. However, perhaps the greatest excitement attaches to the entrepreneurs who are trying to create a new business model for space travel based initially on tourism, and eventually, on colonizing the Moon and Mars and harvesting resources from asteroids. This paper presents a snapshot of the new space race and the rich men behind it, and it looks at some of the ethical and legal issues raised by this activity. The methodology is to consider the stated ambitions of the men leading private space companies, compare and contrast the space endeavor with earlier episodes of exploration and transportation innovation, review the regulatory environment for outer space, and consider two divergent scenarios for the future. Opinions are divided on whether commercial space flight is an expensive indulgence or potentially a way to find sustainability solutions for our life on Earth. It is concluded that the new space race can be characterized as unbounded: in ambition, in terms of laws and regulations, and in terms of ethical constraints on the activity.

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