A privately owned, New Zealand-based space company in under fire after after it secretively put a satellite that will function like a giant disco ball in orbit. Critics have likened the act to “space graffiti” and the launching should trigger an international conference on preventing such unilateral actions in the future.
Rocket Lab’s founder and chief executive Peter Beck took it upon himself to put a three-foot-wide silver sphere into space to serve as what he calls a “Humanity Star” that will reflect the sun’s rays as a blinking light. Of course, humanity had not vote in this decision. Beck simply decided that people around the world will look into the stars as have generations only to see his flashing man-made globe.
I obviously agree with the critics. I find it incredible arrogance to place such a flashing object in the stars as a unilateral decision for all of humanity. Rocket lab insists that it will be a “reminder to all on Earth about our fragile place in the universe.” Yet, it is made all the more fragile by individuals making decisions on their own and changing the appearance of the stars. Technology has developed to the point that allows People like Beck to make decisions that affect the entire planet and impose what they view as aesthetic elements.
As many know, I am rather obsessed with graffiti in national parks, historic sites, and natural locations (here and here and here and here and here). It should not come as much of a surprise therefore that I consider this act to be such an act — only exponentially magnified.
However, the problem is not just aesthetic. Scientists and astrophysicists have condemned the act as potentially interfering with science and scientific research. Other condemn it as a new form of light pollution.
Regardless of the objections, there is a need to unite against this type of unilateral conduct, including the move toward space advertising.
This is a modern variation of Garrett Hardin’s Tragedy of the Commons where the unregulated use of a common resources leads to its degradation or loss.
What do you think?