Building the World

Watcher of the Skies


“Supermoon” photo by Bill Ingalls/NASA. Image: NASA and wikimedia commons.

“Then felt I like some watcher of the skies, when a new planet swims into his ken,” penned poet John Keats, in the era when Uranus was just discovered. September 27, 2015: a rosy supermoon heralded upward wonder. Since 1969, when Apollo’s Neil Armstrong set foot upon the moon, space has become increasingly accessible. The Outer Space Treaty, signed in 1967 by the United States and 128 other countries including China and Russia, led to the establishment of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs. Treaty provisions assure space belongs to all, is free for exploration and use by all, and the Moon and other planets cannot be claimed by sovereign nations, despite Armstrong’s symbolic planting of a certain flag. The Outer Space Treaty decrees space must be ruled by peace and that no weapons may be launched in space, or in orbit. The parallel Liability Convention declares that space devices launched must be registered by the initiating state or nation, and become sovereign “territory.” But in this era of drones and satellites, ushered in by technological breakthroughs including COMSAT, there is a call for updating the Outer Space Treaty to reflect current issues including mining, science, debris, tourism, and space habitation. Will the vision of Unispace guide the new frontier?

For further reference:

Modesto Seara Vázquez, “Cosmic International Law,” Wayne State University Press, 1965.

United Nations, Outer Space Treaty, 1967.

Gerard K. O’Neill, “High Frontier: Human Colonies in Space,” Princeton University Press, 1976.

Roger Davidson, “Unispace for choir, piano, organ and percussion,” Society for Universal Sacred Music, 1982.

United Nations, “UNISPACE: A Context for International Cooperation and Competition, A Technical Memorandum,” March, 1983 (report following UNISPACE ’82)

To listen: “Selections of Music about the Moon” including works by Beethoven, Debussy, Dvořák”


Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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