Commercial space travel is becoming a reality, says Lin, and the public needs confidence that governments, scientists and astronauts are considering the consequences of exploring space.
For instance, we need a fair process for commercialising or claiming property in space to avoid the kind of “chaotic land-grab” that occurred with internet domain names. There are legal disputes already. Despite UN treaties declaring space as commonly-owned, he says lawsuits have been filed to lay claim to asteroids.
Lin says it is important to have a justifiable reason for exploring space. “Are reasons such as for adventure, wanderlust or ‘backing up the biosphere’ good enough to justify our exploration of space?”
Lin says issues such as polluting space, the proliferation of military technologies in space and the safety of space travellers should also be considered. “Have we learned enough about ourselves and our history to avoid the same mistakes as we have made on Earth?”
Finally, some critics suggest it may be better to spend money on alleviating poverty and hunger, providing access to clean and affordable water and energy, and addressing other issues including human rights violations.