Professor warns space exploration will spark totalitarian societies equipped with nuclear weapons

Space agencies across the world are working tirelessly to design the best ships and technologies for the chance to claim a stake of the final frontier for their country.

Although it may seem like an act of national pride, a professor from Johns Hopkins University warns that space expansion may lead to the extinction of humanity, suggesting it should not be attempted at all.

Daniel Deudney recently published a book titled ‘Dark Skies’ that examines space expansionism through geopolitics revealing cosmic habitats could spark totalitarian empires.

The political science professor also notes that if these settlements stretch across the solar system, nuclear weapons will become the gold standard in war, along with using asteroids to destroy enemy planets – but other experts feel these arguments are ‘too pessimistic.’ 

A a professor from Johns Hopkins University warns that space expansion may lead to the extinction of humanity, suggesting it should not be attempted at all

A a professor from Johns Hopkins University warns that space expansion may lead to the extinction of humanity, suggesting it should not be attempted at all

‘I argue that the consequences of what has actually happened in space are much less positive than space enthusiasts and many others believe,’ reads ‘Dark Skies.’

‘My case for this darker net assessment of actual space activities centers on the role of space activities in making nuclear war more likely.’

‘In sum, this book argues that the large-scale expansion of human activities into space, past and future, should join the lengthening list of catastrophic and existential threats to humanity, and that the ambitious core of space expansionism should be explicitly relinquished.’

The book’s release comes at a time when many countries are muscling up to head into space. 

The US announced a new branch of its armed forces called the US Space Force in 2019, which ‘is designed to protect the interests of the United States in space, deter aggression in the final frontier and conduct prompt and sustained space operations.’

Many other countries including France, Canada and Japan have since followed in suit for their chance to take a piece of space.

However, Deudney’s concludes that these countries’ efforts will come with serious consequences.

Daniel Deudeny recently published the book 'Dark Skies' that discusses the dangers of space expansion

Daniel Deudeny recently published the book ‘Dark Skies’ that discusses the dangers of space expansion 

The professor used geopolitics for this work, which studies ‘the practice of states controlling and competing for territory’ – and in this case, space.

Deudeny also explains that he is not opposed to using space in ways that will benefit Earth and is not on a mission to ‘defund space’ by eliminating the many robots and satellites that currently patrol the area.

He is looked at ‘the political and military potential of a system-spanning human civilization only increases the chances of totalitarianism and the deliberate or accidental extinction of human society,’ Dr. Bleddyn Bowen, an expert in space warfare, space policy and international relations in outer space at the University of Leicester.

Bowen, who does not agree with all of Deudeny’s arguments, does note that space habitats will call for population control and authorities to regulate resources if humans are to survive on other planets.

‘The power and control vested in the leaders of off-world human habitats on Mars or near the Jovian moons will tend towards despotism and totalitarianism because there will not be alternatives to life outside that highly controlled and controllable environment,’ he wrote.

‘Dark Skies’ also highlights the use of military and its technologies in the fight for space territory.

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Special forces, according to Deudeny, could one day be capable of controlling asteroids and comets to destroy settlements on rival planets, alter climates or cause a major extinction event – all of which have happened in our own history.

Space settlements could turn to totalitarianism, as authorities would need to control populations and resources if they are to survive on other planets

Space settlements could turn to totalitarianism, as authorities would need to control populations and resources if they are to survive on other planets

Along with using objects in space, governments have revealed details over the past years for launching nuclear weapons into the final frontier.

NASA is working on a method that would send a nuclear bomb into space aboard a rocket to destroy an asteroid heading towards Earth.

Earlier this year, the US raised concerns that China or Russia may soon detonate a nuclear weapon in space ‘to fry the electronics’ of spacecraft and ‘indiscriminately’ take out satellite.

Although neither of these are a reality, the technology may be in the works and could be used to wage space war.

‘Deudney’s views on space technology’s role in nuclear war and international stability is somewhat reductionist – the arguments overlook the role of satellites’ contributions to strategic stability through monitoring, verification, and missile launch early warning systems,’ reads Bowen’s blog.

‘Space technology is neither inherently stabilizing nor destabilizing. It has resulted in both effects and does not do so independently of subjective interpretation of ‘brute’ material technological forces.’

‘In my view, Deudney’s arguments tends to overplay the negative aspects of space surveillance and military monitoring with regard to nuclear stability.’

Deudney fears that totalitarianism will spread like wildfire across space due to space expansionism that could lead to the demise of humanity altogether.

However, Bowen argues that there is also a chance of the same thing occurring on Earth as a result of humans venturing out into the solar system.

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‘If – a big if – humanity is to develop as a system-spanning species, I expect political and social efforts to govern the system to follow when it becomes feasible, Bowen wrote.’

‘But there is no iron law as to what shape or form that governance will take.’


A group of more than 40 international experts are conducting a multi-year research project that will culminate in a Manual on International Law Applicable to Military Uses of Outer Space.

MILAMOS Project is to ensure space activities are conducted in accordance with the rule of law.

This will involve a consideration of the existing international rules on outer space.

It will also involve integration with international humanitarian law and the rules prohibiting the use of force.

The drafting of the rules will involve many meetings, heated discussions and compromises.

It is envisaged that at the end of the project the applicable rules will be agreed on the basis of consensus.

The MILAMOS Project is not an effort to condone warfare in outer space.

On the contrary, it seeks to prevent armed conflict and minimise the devastating impact that space technology and military operations may have on the long-term and peaceful use of outer space. 

The Outer Space Treaty, which was signed in 1967, was agreed through the United Nations, and today it remains as the ‘constitution’ of outer space.

The space treaty states that celestial territory is not subject to ‘national appropriation’ – in other words, no country can lay claim to them. 

In the fifty years the treaty has existed, it has yet to be violated.  



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