As humanity spreads into orbit and beyond, experts continue to grapple with how the rights granted to Earth workers apply to those who live in space.
Why is this important: To create businesses and societies in space where the biological necessities of human life such as air and water are not available, a fundamental rights agreement is required to ensure that workers are not exploited.
- Translating human rights to professional astronauts and other astronauts isn’t necessarily straightforward. Experts say the international community must start fighting that now, decades before we have cities on Mars.
- How will the right to free expression be achieved for abused workers aboard a private space station at air rescue and life companies?
- “In space we have the opportunity to build a new holistic system from scratch and to include labor protection, including political protection … including protection of access to resources and oxygen and water,”; said AJ Link. Director of Jus Ad Astra, an organization that values human rights in space, told Axios.
What happened: The United Nations Outer Space Treaty classifies astronauts as a protected group that should be considered humanity’s ambassador of rights and protection.
- But the rules on the rights of private astronauts in space are not explicitly set forth in the treaty, and that could complicate things as companies work to send private citizens to space.
- In theory, licensing countries to launch companies like SpaceX are responsible for what those businesses do in space, meaning people sent to orbit and beyond will be protected from those countries. But that hasn’t been tested broadly yet.
plot: While the assignment of rights that workers have out of this world may seem premature today, experts say the decisions now will affect what rights look like in orbit for decades to come.
- Jeff Bezos detailed his vision of a large private space station in orbit that will serve as a production hub for the industry that will take polluting jobs away from the planet.
- Elon Musk’s SpaceX has made broad claims. (And is not encouraged) then that Mars is “An independent planet and no government on Earth has any power or sovereignty over Mars’ activities” as part of the Starlink Beta Test Agreement.
- “It is not difficult to imagine a ‘corporate city’ situation where employers can take advantage of their workers by taking control of almost every aspect of their existence,” said Ed Finn, Founder Director of the Center for Science and Technology. Imagine at Arizona State University, Axios told Axios. “Setting up the walk away is tricky when the only place to go is the ruthless emptiness on the other side of the airline.”
Large Image: “One of the challenges I see facing with private space exploration is that space exploration companies’ leaders will set objectives, rules and sanctions governing habitats and space missions, with the tendency to maximize profitability as a goal. David Colby Reed, a graduate researcher in the Space Enabled Research Group at the MIT Media Lab, told Axios.
- “This is a normal business on the planet. But in space, that private government will become the sum total. “
- Controlling both daily life and work can create situations that “It’s difficult for a free society to take root,” Reed added.
Bottom line: Sending people to space for long distances will require a tough conversation today about the rights they will have in space and how they will enforce from Earth hundreds to millions of miles.