ARMS CONTROL AND OUTER SPACE
NOTHING SHOULD be said on this subject except with the utmost scepticism. The first missile powers contemplate space with the perspective of the first oceanic naval powers, when they contemplated the globe. Their existing legal and political conceptions do not cover it, and their experience provides them only with analogies. They can have little notion of the problems to which it will give rise, or of the political, strategic and economic importance it will have for them. It is not even clear what it is, or what the human activities are that will be specially connected with it.
Outer space is space beyond the atmosphere. But there is not a sharp division between the atmosphere and outer space: the outer boundaries of the former are given as anything from 500 to 60,000 miles from the surface of the earth. (The outer boundaries of the troposphere vary from 3 to 5 to 10 miles; the stratosphere 50-70 miles; ionosphere 400-500 miles; the exosphere is what lies beyond.)
Nor is there a sharp division between the activities connected with the former and those connected with the latter. Characteristically, the atmosphere is a medium in which a certain class of vehicles, conventional aerodynamic aircraft and balloons, can alone operate; outer space is a medium in which these vehicles cannot operate, and in which vehicles so far move only through rocket propulsion and being put into orbit. However, aircraft have so far penetrated only the lower stratosphere; missiles and satellites travel in both outer space and the atmosphere; there are vehicles in development which combine aerodynamic and ballistic means of propulsion; and long-range ground-to-ground missiles pass through outer space only briefly in transit.
The launching of the first orbiting vehicles led to denials, like those issued in respect of aeroplanes at the beginning of the century, that they had military applications. Space activities do have important civil applications. They have a scientific purpose.