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Civilization in Space

A look at our future


  1. Background
  2. The New Settlers
  3. Settlements

2015 Dec 1

We are now on the threshold of a crucial event as human civilization is poised to extend beyond Earth. The long-term survival of humanity, as for every civilization born on a planet, requires that we expand beyond our home planet and beyond our home star. It is also a necessary action to keep our civilization from stagnating, as did several early civilizations on Earth. Space provides a challenge to our will, our technology, and our philosophy of life. These challenges impel us to go now rather than idling on Earth until we are finally forced into action by circumstances.


For nearly seven millennia, small, rather fragile civilizations were scattered around the planet. Attempts by conquerors to unify some of these civilizations failed in the long term, typically shortly after their deaths. A different kind of unification began about four hundred years ago, based on commerce and technology backed by sea power. Britain began a process that by the close of the millennium resulted in a single human civilization spanning the planet. While there are many distinct societies and cultures within it, there is only one civilization. It is a planetary civilization.

The process begun by the British and a few other peoples obviously achieved major changes. Ironically, some of the changes that were the most important, were not wanted by the British people who began the process. The very nature of societies changed. Colonies revolted and established new forms of social structures. Monarchies were strongly involved with the beginning of the process, and yet were destroyed by the resulting changes. Even the British monarchy barely survived, and today is only a vestige of what it once was. Populations demanded, and got, changes in the old order of things. Those changes came out of the turmoil and intellectual challenges of the process of building the new planetary civilization.

The establishment of societies independent of political control from Earth appears inevitable. If private facilities are constructed in Earth orbit, political independence might be gained within a century. If only government facilities are constructed in Earth orbit, political independence for space societies might be a few centuries away.

The New Settlers

The mentalities of settlers has frequently been that of wanting personal independence, to have the ability to exercise self-determination. At least some of the space people will have that characteristic. Control and taxation from Earth conflicts both with the desire for self-determination and the need to meet the extreme costs of life in space. People living in space and enduring the hazards and deprivations of early settlement life will resent any attempts to impose control and taxation from Earth. They will especially resent a dictum denying them full ability and freedom to use resources they recover, while people on Earth (at least those in relatively free societies) have the traditional freedom to do so. The simplest course of action by the space people if the "treaty" or successor agreement is passed is to ignore the tax; it will be a hard one to collect.

Communications and transportation have always hampered the existence of political empires. This will continue to be true in space, where no amount of effort behind a political law can make it override a physical law. Thus the large distances across space will hinder the exertion of political authority from Earth to other habitation sites. Those sites in Earth orbit are the most susceptible to continuing political control from Earth.

Societies based on freedom of the individual is a separate issue, not to be confused with political sovereignty. If a State is created in space to control some society, that State has its independence (sovereignty), but the society is not based on full personal freedom since the State controls the society.

New societies established beyond Earth will experiment with new social structures. At some point in human history, a society will be established on the basis of full personal freedom, which necessarily means without a State. This is such a radically different social structure from what presently exists on Earth that implementation on Earth might be essentially impossible within the next few centuries. However, this might be a nearer-term possibility for societies on the frontiers of human civilization–societies in space.

If a society in space gains political independence from Earth, there is a possibility that it might also gain full freedom for its people. This would be a major development in human history because such a society has never existed before.

All peoples likely will be watching the experiments to see what succeeds and what does not, and to see what might be desirable to implement on Earth. This is the manner in which the New World altered the Old World over the previous five hundred years. Seeing alternatives in action helps people to understand the shams and scams that they have had to live under and to demand changes.

Even so, it would be quite surprising to see total adoption on Earth of any social experiments beyond Earth, even if some are enormously successful. The human capacity for rationalization, self-delusion, and resistance to change seems limitless.


Luna is very close to Earth, obviously, but seriously hampered as a settlement site because of its lack of atmosphere and water.

It seems unlikely that a self-sustaining, permanent settlement could exist on Luna.

Mars is the most accessible place where a self-sustaining, permanent settlement could exist. Such a settlement would significantly increase humanity's probability of survival. However, it is not perfect for that purpose because it is very close to Earth on an astronomical scale–that would require settlements at other stars.