Governing the High Frontier

The NASA Ames Summer Studies of Space Habitats from the mid to late 1970s have recently been linked by BoingBoing and O’Reilly’s Make Blog, principly for the evocative, nostalgic images therein.

The text of the Summer Studies makes for fascinating read though. Here’s an extract from the 1975 study, suggesting that the future inhabitants of the L5 Lagrangian Libration point would be left to orginate their own forms of government and policing…

“Distance and isolation also affect the governance and social order. Whether space colonization is a unilateral effort on the part of the United States or a cross-national enterprise, it will most likely be sponsored by a public or quasipublic organization with a bureaucratic structure which permeates the early settlement. The sense of isolation may stimulate the organizational development of communities away from the organizational form of the sponsor as the interests and life circumstances of a rapidly growing population change and develop. The form of governance depends very much on the preferences of the settlers, in much the same way as allowances for individual choice have been emphasized in other considerations of life in space.

Maintenance of order and of internal as well as external security initially falls to the Earth-based sponsoring organizations and then to the organized community which is expected to rise early in the colony’s history. The small size of the settlement, combined with a rather precarious manufactured environment, may emphasize a concern for internal security. Any individual or small group could, in prospect, undertake to destroy the entire colony by opening the habitat to surrounding space, by disrupting the power supply, or by other actions which have few corresponding forms in Earth-based settings. Whatever organizational form the colonists evolve, it must be able to assure the physical security of the habitat and its supporting systems, and this need for security may infringe upon other desirable features of the colony and its operation.”

Surely there has to be a TV series or two here – Deadwood in Space? I guess a Russell T. Davies reboot of StarCops is out of the question…

0 comments
  1. ant miller said:

    I suspect Iain M Banks might have sen this, as his ‘culture’ utopian society is predicated on a simila approach to social evolution in isolated space environments. For a good indepth look at his thinking behind the culture take a look at this essay of his from 1994:
    http://www.futurehi.net/phlebas/text/cultnote.html

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