Introduction

Space, "the Final Frontier," is surely a technological frontier. But it is also an environmental frontier. It is an environmental frontier in at least three ways. First, the vantage point of space can be used to monitor planet Earth and its environmental problems, whether natural or man-made. Second, near-Earth orbit is a place that is occupied and used by human beings and their machines. This place has certain unique features that make it a valuable, exploitable, and scarce resource. It is also getting crowded and thus polluted with debris. Third, the exploration of deep space—the Moon, Mars and beyond—presents opportunities, but also potential dangers of environmental contamination, forward to other celestial bodies, backward to Earth. Moreover, there are conflicts involving environmental values at this third frontier. As space is opened up for human use, conflicting visions arise between those who see space, especially Mars, as the next place to be conquered and developed and those who see it as a special, pristine place to be protected.

This essay tracks these three "frontiers" of space as an environmental policy concern. Most policy activity has been about the first frontier, using space in relation to the home planet. There has been some policy development concerned with the second. The third frontier has received minimal attention from policymakers. Environmental policy has evolved with the development and application of space technology. This essay analyzes each of the three faces of space-environment policy. The emphasis is on policymaking by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the United States, the world's dominant space power. However, the roles of other agencies and nations are discussed as relevant. They have become more significant from a space and environmental standpoint as the years have passed.

Negotiating Essentials

Negotiating Essentials

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