War in Space
Science fiction author Stephen Baxter explores the dangers of tyranny, revolution and war as humans move to new worlds.
In this series, Another Giant Leap, our essayists consider how humans might evolve into a cosmic civilisation. As we boldly go where no-one has gone before, what are the challenges we are likely to encounter along the way?
A colony on the Moon, Mars or a spaceship on a voyage to a distant world will be physically fragile. A single terrorist bomb could kill everyone and a ruthless dictator in charge of the air could oversee a vicious regime.
In this fourth essay, acclaimed science fiction author Stephen Baxter examines how fiction has tackled the challenges of government in the space environment. He also references human pioneers of the past - such as the US Founding Fathers - who had the vision to devise government for as yet undiscovered territories.
Space exploration poses serious political challenges. Astronauts, such as British astronaut Tim Peake, travelling to and from orbiting space stations are citizens of nations on Earth. However, in the not so far future, inhabitants of a Mars base will need to devise new rights and new ways of governing to ensure no tyrant can control the air supply.
How would you rebel in space against a tyrannous regime? There is a fundamental clash in these perilous environments between the freedom of the individual and the need for the collective to maintain shared systems.
There is also the danger of an extraterrestrial colony attacking the Earth or war in space. As we move off world, Stephen argues, we could master energies with effects far worse than nuclear weapons.
As we explore the solar system, we will have to avoid the terrible dangers of extraterrestrial tyranny and interplanetary war.
Producer: Richard Hollingham
A Boffin Media production for BBC Radio 3.