Universe Exploration and Colonization

Cheney, Thomas (2022). Universe Exploration and Colonization. In: Failat, Yanal Abu and Ferreira-Snyman, Anél eds. Outer Space Law: Legal Policy and Practice, 2nd edition. Globe Law and Practice, pp. 161–174.

URL: https://www.globelawandbusiness.com/books/outer-sp...


This chapter deals with exploration and colonization. This is done predominately from the prospective of the legal framework governing human activities in outer space. However, it also attempts to take a broader view of these topics, pulling in ethical, political, and historical understandings of the issues under discussion. Law is representative of the society that produces it therefore it is important to have that broader understanding, especially when trying to peer into the future. Space settlements and exploration are popular topics. They have long been popular among science fiction fans and ‘visionaries’ but as the commercial sector develops increasingly plausible capabilities for conducting mass space transportation many in the space community feel that the age of space settlement is upon us. This is not exactly unprecedented, and the journey to Mars will undoubtedly prove more difficult than many realise or are willing to accept.

Some of those difficulties will stem from governance challenges, and the existing legal framework for outer space activities. However, particularly with the topics this chapter explores the broader context needs to be understood. Neither the terms exploration and colonization nor the concepts behind them exist in an intellectual vacuum. The weight of the legacy of European imperialism cannot be ignored. Particularly as many discussions of a human future in outer space too closely mirror the arguments of European imperialists. This will be addressed initially but it is also an issue which will be woven throughout the chapter. The chapter will also look at the reach of space law, does the Outer Space Treaty (OST) apply to the entire universe? Before looking at the concepts of use, exploration and settlement through the prism of the Outer Space Treaty. Finally, the chapter will discuss terraforming and its links to the concept of ‘Ecological Imperialism’. As a single chapter it can only serve as an introductory overview for many of these issues, but they are important aspect for anyone giving serious consideration to the future of humanity in outer space.

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