This is a letter I wrote to the Space Rennaissance Initiative (including Buzz Aldrin) on 2009-02-19:
The subject of space colonisation has been uppermost in my mind lately, and I think “Renaissance” is the perfect word for the new energy currently prevalent in the space community. When I talk to friends about space, the parallel I often draw is the web, since this is my area of expertise and experience. 2009 is to the space industry what 1994 was to the web; or in other words, imagine investing in Netscape, Microsoft and Yahoo back then, before the dotcom boom. This is where we are now. While the space revolution will necessarily move more slowly, it will affect humanity more profoundly than any prior shift; and it begins now, with us.
Our role, as I see it, is to establish a protocol for space development that pre-emptorily defends and protects Earth and the human race as a whole. We need to establish international/UN-recognised protocols for usage of Solar System resources that ensures all humans together benefit from our activities in space. One or more technologically advanced countries cannot be permitted to benefit to the detriment of others.
To this end I propose we work towards an “Earth Space Consortium”, comprised of government space agencies, companies and academic institutions, that will work together to establish official parameters for space development. Examples would include:
- units of measurement (e.g. SI, metric), technology standards (TCP/IP, IPv6, XML) and international standards (ISO);
- protocols for spacecraft and space station interactions, e.g. docking port designs and dimensions, approach velocity constraints, courtesy;
- laneways for satellites and spaceways for spacecraft
- orbital, lunar, martian, etc. base design agreements regarding environmental effects, e.g. avoidance of biological contamination (two-way), treatment of waste materials (recycling), usage/exploitation of local resources;
- land use rights (see OST, common use law); establishing guidelines for claiming extraterrestrial land and/or mining leases;
- safety protocols and systems (e.g. risk assessment analyses), c.f. high standards in mining industry;
- health and fitness guidelines;
- extraterrestrial economics;
- planetary engineering (esp. Mars terraforming) and planetary management/governance agreements;
The ESC could function similarly to the World Wide Web Consortium, which has a membership fee structure based on profitability of a company or income level of a nation. The W3C establishes global standards for the web in the same way that the ESC would outline global standards for space. ESC membership fees could be used to employ permanent staff, and to invest in technological development considered by a board/council to be of benefit to the space colonisation movement.
While the Space Development Steering Committee is comprised of significant persons, the ESC would be comprised of significant organisations and therefore would have greater available resources and influence. Signatories to ESC agreements would be viewed by the general population as in favour of human unity (thus good PR); whereas those who flouted the agreements would not be viewed as favourably.
In order to establish an organisation like this we need people of high standing and credibility, Dr. Aldrin being an ideal example. We also need to begin outlining the type of agreements and protocols that the ESC would stand for, as these will act as a beacon of goodness and integrity that will draw the very best people and institutions of Earth to support its goals.