Abstract: The ''Proper Meshing'': Geopolitics and the Commercialization of Space

Jocelyn Wills


During October 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik. Three months later, the United States launched Explorer. Together, these satellites inaugurated a global space race, accelerated the arms race, and encouraged other nations to compete for the military and commercial promise of earth observation. Very quickly, however, President Eisenhower worried about the forces such acts had unleashed. In his famous farewell address to the American people on January 17, 1961, Eisenhower warned, ''we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.'' Further, he cautioned: ''Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals so that security and liberty may prosper together.'' Taking my queue from Eisenhower's latter caution, and as part of the BHC's focus on the ''vices and virtues'' of business, my paper contemplates the commercialization of space during the Cold War era, the rapid expansion of that effort since the Internet went global, the elusive nature of the ''proper meshing'' of security and liberty, and the ways in which the costs of public-private partnerships in space have increased and socialized the risks of global surveillance and orbital debris.