spUN Debates

spUN Debate Program of the National Space Society

Lorna Jean Edmonds

The NSS International Space Development Conference has been the incubator for many exciting programs and ideas. ISDC® 2017 gave birth to a remarkable program for students who are space enthusiasts, and, who seek to become leaders in the space arena. The space policy and UNiversalization (spUN) Debates emerged from a conversation between NSS Director of Education Frances Dellutri and 14-year-old Indian students Apoorva B.R. and Souvik Mukherjee after attending the presentation by Dr. Lorna Jean Edmonds, Ohio University, “Do Those Who Control the Galaxy Control Earth: The Century of Universalization”.

The spUN Debate Program forms teams of international students who learn about current laws and concerns in space development and expansion.  It then gives them the opportunity to debate the ramifications of emerging policy in space industries and space utilization.

spUN debates

The basic premise of universalization is a shift away from a focus on the globalization of Earth to the governance of ‘the world within the universe’ and for outer space to be the next frontier for all. The imperative is that for the diversity of humanity to be sustainable within a universal construct, an inclusive and cooperative approach is required for the governance of the universe and the worlds within it, including habitation, exploration, discovery, resource deployment and mitigation. As we are learning from the crisis of COVID-19 and looming climate change we all must work together for humankind’s sustainability in a unified fashion while safeguarding our diversity. Dr. Edmonds’ presentation was a ‘call to action’ urging our next generation to get engaged since they will be the most affected by the continued development of Earth, and our future leaders.

And so sparked the ideation moment: create a space policy debate unique to the lens of universalization, the plan was born  “to ignite students – to really put them on fire with the vision of space governance via  the debate vehicle.”

The group embarked on designing a debate on topics about space policy and universalization with high school students. This vision was to develop a publicly accessible debating community for participants of the next generation from all cultures, communities and languages around the world who would together learn to compete cooperatively, otherwise coined as “competition.”


Debater Neerav

What was apparent when we launched this challenge was that these pioneers had truly little idea about what they were about to learn, and this was transformational to observe. Indian debater Neerav commented, “Cooperation and Compassion. Universalization in my point of view will change the world to a better place and a bold new way to problem solve—together.”

The spUN Debate Program has proven that when you remove borders and simply bring together talented imaginative minds of all ages, gender, religions or cultures, learning occurs, making possibilities boundless.


Debater Apoorva

According to Debater Evan, “We keep these things that make us different, however we find a way to not cause problems with them. We find the goals that include all of us, no matter what religion or race or language, that benefits everybody. It is the most altruistic approach.“ Apoorva voiced her approval saying, “We want every individual involved in every matter because we are human, and this is our world. We need to rule it together.”

“This contest gave me the opportunity to learn so many new things—how to select the most suitable information for my arguments, to present my ideas in a clear and understandable way, and how to gesture and speak to attract the listeners’ attention. I became more interested in space exploration than I was before, and I gained a different perspective on the whole world” stated Romanian student Andrei.  (Please view go.nss.org/spUNsizzle for a brief video message about the spUN Debate Program.)

Some of the resolutions used since 2017 are:

  • Can universalization promote global peace through cooperation?
  • Space development contributes to achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Money spent on space exploration is not justified when there are so many problems here on Earth that we need to solve first.
  • The Gateway will be critical in expanding human presence to the Moon and deeper into the solar system.
  • Space traffic management should be regulated by the UN Security Council.

Some of the spUN resolutions have been about humanity and others about technology.

  1. Which of these concerns is the more important?
  2. How can we marry the concerns?
  3. How can we get the space players to give these topics the amount of interest, energy, and concern they need?

It is extraordinary. The spUN Debates underscore the universalization concept in action and that is building global friendships on the most exciting topics of this era in which we all have a stake—space, sustainability, security—and to do so in an environment in which we all learn critical skills and ways to cooperate in a diverse and inclusive framework.

If you are keen to “critically analyze how space exploration and investment are being formed and how they should be governed” while learning the leadership skills of inclusive cooperation with students from diverse backgrounds all over the world, this is the debate coopetition for you.

What comes next is exciting!

Veteran Debaters give their impression of the NSS spUN Debates benefits in just one word…spUN.

This page is excerpted from “Next Gen Leaders Debate the Future of Inclusive Space Policy Development” by Frances Dellutri and Dr. Lorna Jean Edmonds, Ad Astra, Fall 2020