International Security

(1) Climate change and global pandemics are both issues of grave worldwide importance, which we in 2020 have become closely familiar with. However, there is another issue of similar global impact that is discussed less often: the risks associated with near-Earth asteroids. How do global pandemics and climate change compare to the potential of an Earth collision from an asteroid? Leveraging this comparison, write an argument for how seriously governments should take these risks, and whether and when they should engage in prevention and preparation.

(2) Consider the following scenario: an amateur astronomer in Chile discovers that a previously unknown asteroid appears to be on an Earth-impact trajectory. After notifying scientists at the European Southern Observatory in La Silla, they confirm that the 3.5-km diameter asteroid, designated 2021 KB132, is on a course that will with 99% probability impact with the Earth in just over three years’ time. As an impact from an asteroid of this size would be cataclysmic, its successful deflection would be critical for life on Earth: but where should the decision on whether to attempt a deflection be made? The White House? The Space Mission Planning Advisory Group? The UN Security Council? Somewhere else? Weighing the relevant factors and clearly explaining your rationale, make a case for where this decision would be best made.

(3) On October 13, 2020, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said: “The Artemis Accords affirm the simple contention that we can, in fact, extract and utilize space resources. Countries and companies should be able to enjoy the fruits of their labour. And all such activities can and will be done in full compliance with the Outer Space Treaty.” In the context of what you now know concerning the complexities around space mining, interpret and analyze Bridenstine’s statement. What do these three sentences appear to indicate about the preferences and diplomatic strategy of the United States, via NASA, with regard to the extraction of space resources? With reference to the text of the Artemis Accords, do you think the United States fully achieved its negotiating goals?

(4) Over the historical course of human activities in space, countries in the Global South have been largely excluded from participation. Although this is changing somewhat, the pattern continues repeating in other ways: most recently, in the fact that they are absent from the Artemis Accords and the debate over commercial space mining. Does this matter, and if so, why (or why not)? What influence could they have, given that most of them are not space-faring nations? In crafting your argument, you might consider the mechanisms and relationships they could utilize to their advantage in either a specific, or a general, sense.


Each topic asks you to develop, and defend, your own position. Although a good essay will employ strong reasoning and effective and extensive use of relevant course videos and readings towards this end, otherwise, it is up to you as to how you would like to do so! You may approach this assignment as a traditional academic paper, but you may also take a creative approach, imagining (for example) that you are writing this as an op-ed, similar to what one might encounter in the Globe and Mail or the New York Times.

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