(EN) Space community as an enabler of cosmopolitan ideas through Large Technical Systems

Nikola Schmidt, Ondřej Ditrych


Space exploration has been a source of visions of a positive future development of humanity as a spacefaring species, as well as a possible warring domain of humanity as a nation-faring species. In this way, the post-WWII age was defined by a belief that technology can be the cause of either positive or dystopic futures, respectively. However, the development of political science since then has provided us a different perception of the relation between technology and politics. In this article, we show how large technical systems (LTSs) could overcome the imprisonment of identity in a national straitjacket in interstate interactions and could subsequently enable a more inclusive cosmopolitan global governance. We argue that political reality could be determined by technology; it could be that normative theory, injected into LTSs that existed for decades, determines the available space for political steering. The space domain is specific given its inherently cosmopolitan epistemic space community that has the power through its expertise, ability to mobilize scientific facts, and also policy, to shape not only how LTSs of the future would appear but also on what normative foundations they would stand. The space community should become aware of its political capital instead of continuously asking for a Global Space Agency that would involve all nations. LTSs and the space community, therefore, effectively become two vehicles of the political change. We use three cases for this change that require LTSs to be addressed: orbital debris, planetary defense, and interstellar travel. The principal problem of ambitious activities in space does not lie, we propose, not only in lack of knowledge, lack of technical capabilities, or a lack of funding but also in lack of our ability to enable cosmopolitan ideas in political practice. The novel approach to space policy we suggest in our article builds on the basic principles of cosmopolitan theory, and uses the concept of a responsible cosmopolitan state, and the Welsh School of critical security studies, namely a theory that focuses on security as emancipation rather than security as an absence of an identified threat, to argue that security sensitive LTSs are not a burden but rather an instrument to enable positive political change.