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Monday, March 17, 2014

Manifest Destiny: Does space count?

Manifest Destiny   (Painting by John Gast)
Although the concept of Manifest Destiny was rejected by such luminaries as Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant, it nevertheless played a significant role in 19th century America.

Wikipedia quotes historian Frederick Merk while
explaining this central theme of Manifest Destiny:  “A sense of mission to redeem the Old World by high example […] generated by the potentialities of a new earth for building a new heaven.”   

Unfortunately, today's version of Manifest Destiny might not sound nearly as noble.  Since the West (and most of Planet Earth) has already been won (or lost, depending upon one’s perspective), it’s time to literally move on up (as in up, up and away).

Nowadays, Manifest Destiny is rocket science, and what’s fueling these spaceships is not so much idealized religion as it is commercialized materialism.

In her article “The dark side of space: how capitalism poses a threat beyond Earth,” Izabella Kaminska discusses such business ventures as Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, and Robert
Bigelow’s Bigelow Aerospace.

Although Article II of the U.N. Outer Space Treaty clearly states that “outer space… is not subject to national appropriation,” Kaminska fears that capitalistic “barons” won’t necessarily play by these rules.

She envisions the possibility of a “megalomaniac” one day renaming Mars.  Whereas Earth at least has the semblance of legal hoops through which capitalists have to jump, outer space at this point does not. 

Kaminska therefore wonders:  Will space be the next Wild West?

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