As Jeffrey Bezos and other billionaires/millionaires begin to travel into space, not for scientific purposes, but just because they can, we are beginning to witness the opening stages of the commercialization of space.
As NASA and other scientific bodies dedicated to the exploration of space begin to move on from the International Space Station and low earth orbit to farther celestial bodies, such as the moon, corporations can begin to move in. This transition can facilitate new business opportunities such as a wider scale development of space tourism. Already existing in a limited capacity, space tourism could greatly expand with low earth orbit habitat similar to the International Space Station. The technology to build such a habitat that would actually be suitable for humans is not that far off since NASA is going to soon be experimenting with artificial gravity later this year, according to their own press release from March 9, 2021. From here we feel like we are going to begin to see a new class divide emerge. If we have hotels in space, we basically have housing in space and considering that living in space would be astronomically expensive, only the ultra-wealthy could reasonably afford to live in space. With this, the ultra-wealthy have constructed the ultimate barrier between themselves and everyone else.
Besides the most wealthy of us abandoning the earth for the stars, existing corporations could begin to pursue methods to benefit from commercializing space as well by launching obtrusive advertisements into orbit around earth. This would most likely take the form of a large billboard in the night sky. Considering the amount of money that companies are pouring into advertising during special events like the Super Bowl, it is not that far-fetched for them to look into advertising in space considering it’s able to offer them a much wider reach. So far, the United States is the only country that has prohibited the launch of any payload containing any materials meant for obtrusive advertising in space. Therefore, companies are still able to launch from any other country to put advertising in space — ultimately resulting in not even the sky being a refuge for the omnipresent nature of ads in our society.
As all of space is the “province of all mankind” as stated in the Outer Space Treaty of 1966, we feel that we should venture out into it as a united collective of humanity and not allow an oligarchy of wealthy individuals to monetize our desires to reach the stars. We are not saying the commercialization of space is bad, but that it should not be fully privatized. With companies such as Amazon’s obsession of pushing their employees to their absolute limits for the sake of profit, they should not be allowed to do anything in space without a large degree of oversight from a third party. One misstep from an overworked employee could not only result in their death but the death of all their coworkers, as well as a large amount of destruction both in space and potentially on earth.
Although the commercialization of space may seem to be too much of a science-fiction topic to consider crucially, we at least need to start the conversation. We don’t have to look that far back to see that laws and regulations quite often lag behind technological development. With the advent of the Internet, alone our laws today are still trying to adapt to the new digital landscape that it has created. So, if our governments are not going to be leading the forefront into humanity’s expansion into space, we need to at least start thinking about what we’re going to allow the private sector to do when they eventually become interstellar.