Thursday, October 04, 2007

One positive step had been taken immediately after the Cuban Missile Crisis, when President John F. Kennedy proposed and fought for the Limited Test Ban Treaty, in which the U.S., the Soviet Union and many other nations agreed to stop testing nuclear weapons in the atmosphere and under the sea, and to never test them in outer space. It was the first agreement that slowed down the arms race, and others would come over the years to slowly lessen the danger of global nuclear suicide.

Another positive step was taken forty years ago this October 10, when the Outer Space Treaty was signed in 1967 and since ratified by some 100 countries. It states:“The exploration and use of outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries, irrespective of their degree of economic or scientific development, and shall be the province of all mankind.” It sounds like it could have come from a Star Trek script.

That treaty is partially responsible for the major role that space plays in our lives today. No, we don't have the manned missions of exploration we expected after Neil Armstrong's giant step. But we have the descendants of Sputnik--the communications and global positioning satellites in orbit that make so much we take for granted possible: like the Internet, cell phones, GPS. These days, the world's business--including its entertainment, information, health care and just about everything else--would stop cold without them.

But some people worry that this could very well happen. That's why some are marking the anniversary of Sputnik in their particular ways.

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