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The century of universalization: Ohio University experts join international scholars on groundbreaking study on outer space governance

Authors advocate for a thoughtful approach to exploring potentially infinite frontier and the creation of space policies and laws for its governance as world leaders consider the implications of space development on Earth's governance and sustainability


Ohio University experts have joined with authorities from around the world to pave the way for maximizing space development through a dialogue of governance issues and the imperative for model governance frameworks in the recent and major publication of Global Space Governance: An International Study by Springer Press.

This comprehensive and in-depth report was co-edited by Professor Ram Jacku, Associate Professor and former Director, Institute of Air and Space Law, McGill University, and Emeriti Professor Joseph Pelton, Executive Director, Emeritus, Space & Advanced Communications Research Institute (SACRI), George Washington University. Dr Jakhu and Dr. Pelton first started collaborating when they worked together at the International Space University (ISU), Strasbourg, France where Dr. Jakhu was the Director of the Master’s Program and Dr. Pelton was the Vice President of the Academic Programs and Dean.

The pervasiveness of advanced technologies has led to space exploration and the possibilities of the colonization of space increasingly becoming a reality. Because of advancements in space, one of the key questions emerging today is whether we are entering the century of universalization – the sustainability of our world within the universe? With this come concerns for space security and pollution, including the creation of rules to manage the space environment, the inevitable topic of space governance and the potential for warfare. Experts contributing to the dialogue remind one that what comes with this new frontier is both the interest and need for shaping the ways in which humanity on Earth interacts with development taking place in the borderless and harsh environment of near space and quite possibly inter-planetary relations. The move towards establishing space policies and laws adds to the already complex dialogue on the relationships between domestic politics, transnational actors, and international affairs.

“There was a recognition that both space governance and its implications on Earth represent a new domain for examination that to date has been largely uncharted,” Edmonds explained. She added, “As we witness the exponential investment in space development, exploration and security, we must pause to think collectively about the governance and sustainability of Earth as control extends into the universe.”

Edmonds asserted that this study contributes to an emerging question of whether we are experiencing a shift from globalization to “universalization” as this century’s paradigm in which sustainability for all rests on shared governance through cooperation and inclusion superseding all other forms of negotiation.

Edmonds noted, “This work extends the horizon of this new reality of universalization such that we live in, observe and evolve as a ‘world within the universe’ with the future growth in investments in space representing an emerging and potential significant frontier for new development and Earth’s sustainability. The United Nations (UN) Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space has always brought to the fore the significance of international cooperation in the uses of outer space with the primary objective of preserving space for peaceful purposes and avoiding conflict within and with respect to outer space. Similarly, the UN and their 2030 Sustainable Development Goals Agenda, has already begun laying the foundation for global cooperation and collective action through a universal policy agenda. The expansion beyond the boundaries of our planet will be one of the most important issues faced by humanity in the 21 st century, one which must be done collectively and cooperatively, and it will fall to the next generation to begin constructing this expansion.”

In this publication, the authors also addressed the imperative for capacity building – talent, scholarship and innovation - whereby the exponential investment in space has significant implications. These are implications not only for space development but for the governance of Earth, the governance of Earth from space, and possibly the sustainability of humanity.   

Edmonds stated that “although the number of programs are starting to grow, there are still far too few institutions engaging the next generation to explore the complexity of space development, policy and governance and its far-reaching implications.”

Ohio University is one of the few institutions creating capacity in this emerging field. In 2015, under the leadership of Dean Dennis Irwin, the college of engineering hosted ISU’s signature intensive nine-week summer program drawing more than 100 participants and 150 faculty from 30 countries.

The imperative is to raise public awareness of this emerging frontier and the pressing need for talent and leadership in space governance across all disciplines, including fostering global cooperation for addressing questions of universal interest to humanity such as space development. This book and areas identified for priority action are to be presented to the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space and it is hoped will be considered directly or indirectly at the UNISPACE+50 event in Vienna, Austria, in 2018.  

“Ohio University researchers are laying the groundwork for human futures in space through studies of the impact of gravity on biological systems, technology development, and fundamental inquiry into astrophysics and cosmology. This new publication expands this scope to include foundational questions of governance, resource development, and the nature of law in a boundless environment,” said Ohio University Vice President for Research and Creative Activity Joseph Shields. 

This major study and comprehensive report is a global resource for expanding the dialogue from the very few involved in this sphere of space governance into the university and the broader public. The authors hope it will garner the interest of communities and leadership around the world. It is anticipated that its release will spawn the development of new interdisciplinary, pan-sector scholarship not only in space but in universal studies in which Earth as a whole will be considered in this broader infinite frontier along with an increased commitment to solve problems sustainably and together. 

This book is based on the findings, conclusions and recommendations of the Global Space Governance study commissioned by the 2014 Montreal Declaration at McGill University that called upon civil society, academics, governments, the private sector and other stakeholders to undertake an international interdisciplinary study.  The goal of this internationally cooperative study was to develop recommendations for governments and relevant international organizations aimed at the establishment of a global governance framework for peaceful and sustainable space exploration and use for the benefit of all humankind. 

International experts led the drafting of chapters, with input from academics
and knowledgeable professionals in the public and private sectors, intergovernmental organizations, and nongovernmental organizations from all the regions of the world with more than 80 total participants. “It was, however, Professors Jacku and Pelton that succeeded in bringing the vision for this major 600+ page publication to reality,” said Edmonds. “We, at OHIO, were pleased to be part of this groundbreaking study.”

Notably, Ohio University contributors included three scholars. Don Flournoy, emeritus professor, Department of Media Arts and Studies, Scripps College of Communication, led the chapter on Space Solar Governance. Flournoy’s work focused on governance in the development of space-based solar energy. Lorna Jean Edmonds, vice provost for global affairs and director of the Center for International Studies and professor, Department of Interdisciplinary Studies, College of Health Sciences and Professions, collaborated with Danielle Fultz, a graduate of the Honors Tutorial College who currently serves as a senior program coordinator for the Institute of International Education in Washington, D.C. They led the chapter on “Capacity Building in Global Space Governance.”

This book, Global Space Governance: An International Study, is available in hard cover and electronically and individual chapters can also be purchased electronically from Springer Press. 

For more information, please contact the Ohio University Office of Global Affairs at globalaffairs@ohio.edu.