Postprint version. Published in Astropolitics, Volume 4, Issue 3, Winter January 1, 2006, pages 281-294.
Copyright © 2006 Taylor & Francis. This is an electronic version of an article published in Astropolitics.
The definitive version is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14777620601039701.
Commercial space travel is looking more like a real possibility than science fiction, but tied to that ambition we may be held back by the gravity of emerging ethical dilemmas. This viewpoint article surveys a range of social, economic, and political questions, and critically evaluates reasons why we should explore space. The usual ethical issues related to environmental and safety concerns are just the beginning, as there are other interesting questions, such as: what would be a fair process for commercializing or claiming property in space; how likely would a separatist movement be among space settlements who want to be free and independent states; and are reasons to explore space, like for adventure, wanderlust, or ‘‘backing up the biosphere,’’ good enough to justify our exploration of space? The point here that we should explore space; and if we are to move forward with our journey, which may be unstoppable anyway, then we should seriously consider these issues. At the least, this would give the public more confidence—amid questions of misplaced priorities and wasteful spending, along with an increased focus on ethics in science—that we are looking ahead before we take another leap for mankind.