Ethics of Outer Space

Space technologies are both promising and disturbing in that they mobilize considerable capital and touch upon power relationships between the nations. The conquest of space cannot be isolated from the risks, which it brings to mankind, integrity and human dignity.

The ethics of outer space must lead to questioning of the motives underlying man’s access to outer space and exploration of the universe, the degree of acceptability to public opinion and, last but not least, equity. The ethical approach to space is a moral principle for action, with due attention to the risks involved and recognition of the rights of others.

The aim of COMEST is to consider the facts in an effort to identify equitable principles based on ethical reflection, to ensure respect for human rights, freedoms and responsibilities. These ethical principles must apply at every stage in the development of the peaceful use of outer space with a view to developing a new approach founded on a "culture of space".
The efforts made by COMEST seek to contribute to the work implemented by the UN and to give it stronger ethical foundation, in particular by facilitating the work done by the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.

COMEST has adopted the following recommendations on the ethics of outer space:
  • To explore ways and means: to promote access to geostationary orbits; to prevent electromagnetic pollution; to avoid the proliferation of barriers seeking to limit access to outer space; and to limit outer space debris.

  • To take all appropriate measures to provide researchers with free access to scientific data in order to guarantee sharing of knowledge with a view to promote scientific progress.

  • To pursue the reflection with a view of reaching an agreement on the management of intellectual property, notably as to the eligibility for patenting products or processes produced in orbital stations.

  • To protect privacy and confidentiality of information without infringing collective freedoms; to prevent the circulation of subversive messages or illicit activities; to protect individual freedoms and cultural identities.

  • To promote the precautionary measures needed to prevent accidents, liable to occur upon return of potentially contaminating materials originating from outer space.

  • To study the possibility of organizing specialized courses in universities touching upon technology, legislation, insurance and the ethics of outer space.