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    Discussing the Importance of Peace in Space

    ‘The Moon and other celestial bodies shall be used exclusively for peaceful purposes…’

    United Nations Outer Space Treaty, 1967.

    The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 outlines the fundamental rules and principles governing behaviour in outer space. Among its provisions is a commitment to ensuring that the use of outer space is for ‘peaceful purposes’, with any human activity being carried out ‘for the benefit and in the interest of all countries’. Since it was drawn up, and despite there being over 100 signatories, this aspiration for peaceful co-operation in space has been gradually eroded. Today we are witnessing the increasing militarisation of space, from its growing use for intelligence-gathering, surveillance, and reconnaissance platforms to the rise of highly sophisticated anti-satellite capabilities with the capacity to cause enormous disruption and contribute to cyber conflict. Thus, outer space is fast transforming into the latest domain of inter-state competition.[1]

    Published via the Visualising War and Peace podcast in August 2022

    In the podcast above, we examine the concept of peace in space through the lens of military and civilian actors by offering listeners an overview of contemporary space affairs, the ramifications of hostile conduct in outer space, and the ways in which individuals can contribute to ensuring peaceful relations in this critical domain. Our aim is to help listeners to visualise what peace in space might mean for them and to bring this alien concept down to Earth.

    To this end, we invited a mix of civilian and military experts to contribute to our discussions: Wing Commander Sas Duffin and Squadron Leader Stuart Agnew, both from the RAF; and a specialist in international law based at the University of St Andrews, Dr Adam Bower. Dr Bower’s research examines the intersection between international politics and law, and particularly the development, implementation, and transformation of international norms regulating the use of armed violence. His recent work has focused on how laws and norms can govern and regulate space operations. Wing Commander Duffin is a Qualified Space Instructor and senior officer at RAF Space Command; and Squadron Leader Agnew serves in the legal division of the RAF and was the first legal advisor to the organisation when it was established in 2021. Between them, our guests cover many different angles as they discuss both peace and conflict in space. It is particularly fascinating to hear how they relate international relations theory to day-to-day decision-making and strategic planning on the ground – or, rather, in outer space.

    Student hosts Harris Siderfin and Otilia Meden help to keep the conversation grounded and work hard to make this discussion of peace in space accessible to everyone. We hope that you enjoy their informative and thought-provoking conversation! 

    Why we need to talk about peace in space 

    ‘Control of space means the control of the world’.[2] The words of former vice-president Lyndon B. Johnson demonstrate that space has not always been viewed as purely peaceful domain. However, the concept of space supremacy has changed dramatically since the Cold War. For example, satellite gunships,[3] and programmes such as Project Ithacus, which planned to create intercontinental troop transporters, ‘rocket commandos’, and space launched ballistic missiles, were never seen to fruition.[4] Today, space dominance revolves around covert methods including intelligence gathering, communication, and early warning systems. Among the questions our podcast hopes to answer are ‘Why is space conflict so problematic?’ and ‘Why should we care?’. 

    Space assets are essential to various aspects of contemporary life: space technology impacts most of today’s society, from banking to weather predictions.[5] If we were to lose certain space assets due to conflict in space this could be catastrophic. Space assets have significantly improved the social and living conditions of the majority of globe’s population.[6] For example, navigation technology which is the norm in today’s society has enhanced the capabilities of the emergency services. Without this technology, quick response teams such as ambulances, fire brigades and coast guard units would be hampered.[7] Indeed a study comparing the abilities of an ambulance team using a Global Positioning System (GPS) showed that when a GPS was used, response times were significantly shorter (roughly 4.7 min, +/-1.5 min) than when they were not (c. 6.05 min, +/- 3.04 min).[8] The same navigation technology has been used to create semi-autonomous vehicles for the agriculture sector. This machinery uses GPS tracking signals to determine location and send position correction signals to ensure that the vehicle finds the optimal path, maximising output.[9]

    Space assets are used to tackle multiple issues, from early warning systems to help mitigate climate disasters[10] to bolstering economic development as telecommunication satellites supply instant communication[11]. Due to this, state and non-state actors have become far more involved in space affairs, and competition – as well as co-operation – has increased between them. The number of space actors has grown exponentially since the first satellite was placed in orbit in 1957. In 2015 an estimated seventy-four countries successfully launched satellites into space independently or with the assistance of external actors.[12]  With the increased number of actors, governance in space is essential. As discussed above, if we lose the use of space assets due to conflict in space, people all around the globe will collectively suffer. Therefore, it is in the interests of states to keep space as a peaceful and collaborative domain.

    Our podcast delves into these topics and emphasises why we as individuals need to talk, think and advocate more about peace in outer space. Visualising peace in space is something that we can all get involved with, and we hope that our podcast will help you find out more and join the conversation.

    What do you think?

    • What influence do you think you have (if any) over developments in outer space?
    • Do you care about what happens in outer space? 
    • What dangers does conflict in space present and why should we, as individuals, care? 
    • How does peace in space help maintain peace on earth? And how can peace in space be promoted, improved and maintained?
    • How can we best visualise peace in space when outer space itself is so difficult to conceptualise?

    If you enjoyed this item in our museum…

    You might also enjoy ‘Cyber Peace and Artivism‘, ‘Is Hacktivism Peaceful?‘, ‘Journey: visualising peace through gaming‘, and items with the tag ‘Future Peace‘.

    Harris Siderfin and Otilia Meden, August 2022


    A massive thank you to the guests who took time out of their busy schedules to answers our questions on space: it was a dream come true to talk to such experts! We also want to thank those behind the scenes who helped get this podcast underway, in particular Commander Serena Brotherton. Thank you to the Visualising Peace team and Dr König for help and advice. Finally, thank you Charlotte Jiang for helping to develop these ideas and questions around space; it is always a pleasure being in dialogue with you.  

    [1]  Mowthorpe (2003). 

    [2] Johnson (1957), Speech to Democratic Caucus.

    [3] Hollingham (2016)

    [3] Wade (2019),

    [5] Doboš (2019), pp.61-66.

    [6] ISECG (2013), p.6.

    [7] Doboš (2019), p.62.

    [8] Schokry (2015), p.63.

    [9] Agricar (2021),; Eaton et al. (2008), pp.1-8.

    [10] Kansakar & Hossain (2016), p.46.

    [11] Doboš (2016), pp.66-69.

    [12] Williams (2021),

    Further reading:

    Agricar, 2021. Agricar. [Online] 
    Available at:
    [Accessed 28 March 2022]. Link

    Doboš, B., 2019. Geopolitics of the Outer Space A European Perspective. Cham: Springer Nature . Link

    Eaton, R., Katupitiya, J., Siew, K. & Dang, K., 2008. Precision Guidance of Agricultural Tractors for Autonomous Farming, Montreal: 2nd Annual IEEE Systems Conference. Link

    Hollingham, R., 2016. The Cold War space missions that never happened. BBC News, 4th March.  Link

    ISECG, 2013. Benefits Stemming from Space Exploration, International Space Exploration Coordination Group. Link

    Johnson, L. B., 1959. Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing (January 1957). Link

    Kansakar, P. & Hossain, F., 2016. A review of applications of satellite earth observation data for global societal benefit and stewardship of planet earth. Space Policy, Volume 36, pp. 46-54. Link

    Mowthorpe, M., 2003. The Militarization and Weaponization of Space. Washington DC.: Lexington Books . Link

    Schokry, A., 2015. Improving the Response Time of Ambulances Using Global Positioning Satellite System (GPS) in Gaza City in the Gaza Strip. Journal of Engineering and Architecture , 3(2). Link

    Wade, M., 2019. Astronautix. [Online] 
    Available at:
    [Accessed 25 March 2022]. Link

    Williams, D., 2021. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). [Online] 
    Available at:
    [Accessed 26 March 2022]. Link

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