Space Ethics

New advances in space technology and science potentially open up whole new worlds for humans to explore. This is a very exciting time in human history as we continue to push the frontiers of knowledge. However, not all innovation is positive, and even the development of "good" technologies can have negative outcomes.
Space Ethics
Credit: NASA/Pat Rawlings (SAIC)

Space Ethics is concerned with examining the idea that just because we CAN do certain things in space, it doesn't mean we OUGHT to do them. Space ethics also examines what future problems advances in space research might create, and attempts to envisage potential solutions to those problems.

Space Ethics researchers Stephen Coleman and Nikki Coleman, in collaboration with scholars from the Consortium for Emerging Technologies Military Operations and National Security (CETMONS) in the United States, are examining a wide variety of ethical issues relating to space. Some questions currently being considered include

  • .The ethical challenges arising from the use of space in armed conflict. If space can be used for military purposes, what limits, if any, ought to be imposed, and by whom? Do current treaties on weapons and their use apply 'beyond this world'?
  • The concept of the 'ownership' of space – is there a fair process for ownership of space 'real estate'. If space property is owned/ownable, then who has/ought to have sovereignty over that property?
  • The ethical challenges regarding medical experimentation on astronauts
  • How safe should space travel (or space tourism) be?
  • Should we worry about damaging space environments.

Stephen and Nikki Coleman are also researchers with the Australian Centre for the Study of Armed Conflict and Society (ACSACS) at UNSW Canberra, and their work will complement the projects of other researchers at UNSW Canberra Space.

CETMONS is a multidisciplinary organisation comprised of institutions and individuals in academia, the military and other branches of government together with the private sector who are engaged in research, teaching, public education and outreach, policy-making, and policy advising on ethical, legal, social, and policy issues raised by emerging military technologies.
Dr Stephen Coleman and the Reverend Nikki Coleman are the only non-US based members of CETMONS and are available for comment on the Australian contribution to the collaboration.