Mars Rover

A STRANGE WEEK OF SPACE NEWS: PART THREE: THE PLANS FOR A MARTIAN ...

July 1, 2016 By Joseph P. Farrell

The week of strange space news is not over yet, with this article submitted by Mr. V.K. You'll recall that yesterday I concluded my blog and the high octane speculation thus far by stating that I think the spate of stories about space coming out lately mean that, behind the scenes, discussions are relatively much more advanced than we might imagine, for the creation of an international order in space - including the basis of a "space military" - notwithstandign, end deliberately excluding, terrestrial conflicts. In a certain sense, this is inevitable, for any international efforts in space would simply require the cooperation of participants in order to secure the survival of any human bases or colonies. While my argument was highly speculative(and remains so), this article from Mr. V.K. brings home the point that, indeed, such discussions are already occurring:

The Government of Mars Is Already Being Planned: A Glimpse at Martian Law

What I found very intriguing in this article is the following passage:

One research group in Seattle, the Blue Marble Space Institute of Science, has recently penned a report addressing that very question.

The report, titled “A Pragmatic Approach to Sovereignty on Mars” and published in Space Policy, borrows from three already established treaties — the Antarctic Treaty System (ATS), the Outer Space Treaty (OST), and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Using 1967’s Outer Space Treaty as a foundation, the researchers targeted the potential problems that could arise as citizens from different countries begin to cohabitate on a new planet — namely, how much power should a central governing structure possess, how to handle the inevitable disputes that will arise, and how resource rights should be allocated and protected.

The governing body proposed by the Blue Marble Institute is called the Mars Secretariat. As the name implies, this body would be a weak central authority whose purview would primarily be administrative — record maintenance, secretarial duties, and the like. Martian inhabitants themselves would wield significant local power.

Legally, however, this power would be derived from inhabitants’ host nations, “with conflicts to be resolved diplomatically or through a temporary tribunal system composed of representatives of other Mars colonies.”

Note the emphasis here on "sovereignty," for in order for any functioning human colonies to function properly, they must have a measure of local and even individual personal sovereignty to make choice appropriate to the situation, free from some Earth-bound bureaucrat handing down space-diktats like an out of touch EU commissioner. The emphasis on a "tribunal" composed of representatives of various nationalities that might be present in any potential colony, Martian or otherwise, is also intriguing, for it suggests the creation of a kind of local parliament or legislative body arriving at decisions as situations arise, again, a pratical measure that would be necessary in spite of the best laid (Earth-based) plans.

Notably absent, thus far, at least, as far as the article is concerned, is any mention of a recognition of fundamental human rights such as is enshrined in the US Bill of Rights or other similar western recognitions. But the article seems to suggest that such considerations are an inevitability as well, especially with this paragraph toward the conclusion of the article:

But eventually — assuming everything goes to plan — the stage will be reached in the future whereby inhabitants of the Red Planet will begin thinking of themselves as Martians, as opposed to colonists from Earth. And at that point, how much of any cobbled-together governing structure can those folks be expected to live by?

That, indeed, is the rub, and the emphasis on "sovereignty" seems to stress this. One is looking, perhaps, at the emergence of the age-old dilemma, then the Empire (the USA, Britain, European Union) oversteps national and local interests, suppressing them in the name of the greater Empire, and the revolt from the colonists, who no longer think of themselves as Britons but as Americans, or, in this case, Martians, arises. It's a theme that has been explored already in some science fiction, Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, or (my favorite) in the science fiction television series Babylon Five.

But this isn't my high octane speculation... not yet. If, however, we're watching the emergence of quiet, behind-the-scenes attempts to create an international order in space, and if that Martian colony includes Russians, Chinese, Germans, French, Japanese, Brazilians, French, Italians, Britons, and Americans, and they start to think of themselves as Martians, and insisting on the rights of their local soveriegnty and tribunals over the claims of the Empire, then the next great "melting pot" and revolution might come from space. And given the wretched track record of Mr. Global so far on Earth in the last two decades, it is a rather thriling idea to contemplate. Britain had the finest military, and an enormous navy, in the day, and yet, could not prevent its most valuable colonies from secession(with a "little" help to the latter from Admiral de Grasse and the French navy, of course). And that raises the question, of course, in any such "War of Martian Independence," of who gets to play France?

See you on the flip side...