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We Might Be Able to Survive on Mars—But Can We Live There Peacefully?
The establishment of a colony on Mars seems inevitable given just how many groups are drawing up plans for the red planet. NASA intends on sending manned expeditions in the 2030s. SpaceX has an “aspirational” deadline of reaching Mars by 2022, while Lockheed Martin hopes to establish a base camp in 2028. And outside the U.S., China claims to have developed an “EmDrive” propulsion system that would send humans to Mars in just weeks.
Still, there’s a big question that remains unanswered: What laws will ultimately rule Mars?
The answer will probably be significantly informed by current space law, which was created with the United Nation’s Outer Space Treaty in 1967.
The Outer Space Treaty was largely a response to the Soviet Union's launch of Sputnik in 1957, and its key components reflect the anxieties of the Cold War era – namely the prohibition of orbital weapons or establishing military bases on the moon. The treaty made it so the moon is under the same jurisdiction as international waters, and that any nation may use the moon for peaceful purposes. And it even says that states party to the treaty must provide all possible assistance to astronauts in the event of emergency or accident – no matter who they are.
(Strangely enough, the treaty essentially killed the development of Project A119 – a U.S. plan to detonate an atomic bomb on the moon in a spectacular display of military superiority.)
As of July 2017, 107 countries are parties to the treaty. Here’s a few more of its key parts:
Artist's rendering of Mars colony for SpaceX
According to current space laws, space stations or objects placed on celestial bodies are subject to the laws of their country of origin. The same applies to the land that surrounds, say, a country’s base on Mars. It’s similar to how the international community views Antarctica through the Antarctic Treaty System – any nation can operate on the continent for peaceful purposes; no land can officially be claimed; and citizens and bases established on the land are subject to the laws of their country of origin.
But despite the treaty, Antarctica is effectively governed by the scientific community because there is no regulatory body present to enforce laws. This would seem to be a key parallel to a multinational settlement on Mars. However, one major difference is that, in addition to scientists, there will likely be commercial mining operations on the red planet.
Mining celestial bodies for commercial purposes is currently prohibited by space law. However, the U.S. and Luxemburg have already passed legislation regarding commercial space mining that basically says: you mine it, you own it. Several U.S. companies – Deep Space Industries, Planetary Resources, and Moon Express – are drawing up plans to do just that. It’s hard to tell how the international community will react, or if new international agreements will need to be reached, if or when commercial space mining begins.
As far as civil and criminal jurisdiction on Mars, the only legal precedent comes from the Intergovernmental Agreements of 1988 and 1999 that govern the Columbus Space Station Project and the ISS. The agreements allow for the punishment of crimes, registration of space objects, safety of nationals and repatriation of offenders to Earth.
However, those agreements don’t seem to be very analogous in practice. On the ISS, a strict hierarchy places power in the hands of one commander, much like older bodies of law regarding ship captains. There’s no indication this kind of strict hierarchy of power would exist on Mars. Moreover, there’s really no telling how Martian colonists will handle conflicts and crime on the red planet. It raises many questions: Will there be courts? Prisons? The death penalty?
What laws should be in play if, say, a ship belonging to a French mining company damages a base belonging to the Russians? And even if the international community back on Earth were to agree on a Martian legal system, what’s it going to do if the colonists decide they want to form their own laws?
This has led some to predict Mars settlements will be similar to those of the Wild West, as Stephen Petranek, author of “How We’ll Live on Mars,” told National Geographic:
“Who’s going to stop somebody if there’s a private company that wants to go on the opposite side of Mars and they want to just drill into the side of Mars and see what they can find. Who’s going to stop them? There’s not going to be anyone to stop them. It was the same way in the American West. Law was the last thing to arrive. Rules were the last thing to arrive. Justice was the last thing to arrive. Mars is likely to become very much an unruly place.”
“The people who ultimately end up owning the territory on Mars will not be countries on Earth,” Andy Weir, author of “The Martian,” told National Geographic. “It will be the people who live there.”
What is human dignity? Here's a primer, told through 200 years of great essays, lectures, and novels.
- Human dignity means that each of our lives have an unimpeachable value simply because we are human, and therefore we are deserving of a baseline level of respect.
- That baseline requires more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose.
- We look at incredible writings from the last 200 years that illustrate the push for human dignity in regards to slavery, equality, communism, free speech and education.
The inherent worth of all human beings<p>Human dignity is the inherent worth of each individual human being. Recognizing human dignity means respecting human beings' special value—value that sets us apart from other animals; value that is intrinsic and cannot be lost.</p> <p>Liberalism—the broad political philosophy that organizes society around liberty, justice, and equality—is rooted in the idea of human dignity. Liberalism assumes each of our lives, plans, and preferences have some unimpeachable value, not because of any objective evaluation or contribution to a greater good, but simply because they belong to a human being. We are human, and therefore deserving of a baseline level of respect. </p> <p>Because so many of us take human dignity for granted—just a fact of our humanness—it's usually only when someone's dignity is ignored or violated that we feel compelled to talk about it. </p> <p>But human dignity means more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose—a freedom that can be hampered by restrictive social institutions or the tyranny of the majority. The liberal ideal of the good society is not just peaceful but also pluralistic: It is a society in which we respect others' right to think and live differently than we do.</p>
From the 19th century to today<p>With <a href="https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?year_start=1800&year_end=2019&content=human+dignity&corpus=26&smoothing=3&direct_url=t1%3B%2Chuman%20dignity%3B%2Cc0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Google Books Ngram Viewer</a>, we can chart mentions of human dignity from 1800-2019.</p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0ODU0My9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTUwMzE4MX0.bu0D_0uQuyNLyJjfRESNhu7twkJ5nxu8pQtfa1w3hZs/img.png?width=980" id="7ef38" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9974c7bef3812fcb36858f325889e3c6" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
American novelist, writer, playwright, poet, essayist and civil rights activist James Baldwin at his home in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, southern France, on November 6, 1979.
Credit: Ralph Gatti/AFP via Getty Images
The future of dignity<p>Around the world, people are still working toward the full and equal recognition of human dignity. Every year, new speeches and writings help us understand what dignity is—not only what it looks like when dignity is violated but also what it looks like when dignity is honored. In his posthumous essay, Congressman Lewis wrote, "When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war."</p> <p>The more we talk about human dignity, the better we understand it. And the sooner we can make progress toward a shared vision of peace, freedom, and mutual respect for all. </p>
Scientists find that bursts of gamma rays may exceed the speed of light and cause time-reversibility.
- Astrophysicists propose that gamma-ray bursts may exceed the speed of light.
- The superluminal jets may also be responsible for time-reversibility.
- The finding doesn't go against Einstein's theory because this effect happens in the jet medium not a vacuum.
Jet bursting out of a blazar. Black-hole-powered galaxies called blazars are the most common sources detected by NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope.
Cosmic death beams: Understanding gamma ray bursts<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="cu2knVEk" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="c6cfd20fdf31c82cb206ade8ce21ba3f"> <div id="botr_cu2knVEk_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cu2knVEk-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/cu2knVEk-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cu2knVEk-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div>
Philosophers have been asking the question for hundreds of years. Now neuroscientists are joining the quest to find out.
- The debate over whether or not humans have free will is centuries old and ongoing. While studies have confirmed that our brains perform many tasks without conscious effort, there remains the question of how much we control and when it matters.
- According to Dr. Uri Maoz, it comes down to what your definition of free will is and to learning more about how we make decisions versus when it is ok for our brain to subconsciously control our actions and movements.
- "If we understand the interplay between conscious and unconscious," says Maoz, "it might help us realize what we can control and what we can't."
Puerto Rico's iconic telescope facilitated important scientific discoveries while inspiring young scientists and the public imagination.
- The Arecibo Observatory's main telescope collapsed on Tuesday morning.
- Although officials had been planning to demolish the telescope, the accident marked an unceremonious end to a beloved astronomical tool.
- The Arecibo radio telescope has facilitated many discoveries in astronomy, including the mapping of near-Earth asteroids and the detection of exoplanets.
Bradley Rivera via twitter.com<p>In 1963, the concave dish was built into a natural sinkhole on the northern coast of Puerto Rico. The location was <a href="https://www.space.com/20984-arecibo-observatory.html" target="_blank">picked because it was near the equator,</a> providing scientists a clear view of planets passing overhead, and also of the ionosphere, which is the uniquely reactive layer of Earth's upper atmosphere where the northern lights form.</p><p>Since its construction, scientists have used the Arecibo telescope to map near-Earth asteroids, detect gravitational waves, study pulsars, detect exoplanets and <a href="https://www.seti.org/goodbye-arecibo" target="_blank">search for alien civilizations</a>, among other projects. Here's a brief look at some of the discoveries and accomplishments made using the Arecibo telescope:</p><ul><li>1964: Astronomer <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gordon_Pettengill" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Gordon Pettengill</a> discovers that Mercury's rotation period is 59 days, significantly shorter than the previous prediction of 88 days.</li><li>1974: Physicists Russell Alan Hulse and Joseph Hooton Taylor Jr. discovers the first binary pulsar, for which they won a Nobel Prize in Physics.</li><li>1974: Scientists use the telescope to transmit the "Arecibo message" to <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Globular_Cluster_in_Hercules" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">globular star cluster M13</a>. The message, when translated into image form, contains basic information about humanity and human knowledge: the numbers one to 10, a map of our solar system, an illustration of a human being, and the atomic numbers of certain elements.</li><li>1989: Scientists use the telescope to image an asteroid for the first time.</li><li>1992: Astronomers Alex Wolszczan and Dale Frail become the first to discover exoplanets.</li></ul>
The Google-owned company developed a system that can reliably predict the 3D shapes of proteins.