IN DEFENSE OF ADVERTISING IN SPACEJ. H. Huebert, J.D.
Columbus, Ohio USA email@example.com
Walter Block, Ph.D.
Harold E. Wirth Eminent Scholar Endowed Chair in Economics
Loyola University New OrleansNew Orleans, Louisiana USA
The prospect of orbiting “spacebillboards” visible from Earth has disgustedmany, and prompted a law against them inthe United States along with plans to banthem by international agreement. We,however, disagree with the conventionalview, and find legal prohibition of suchsigns unjustified. This paper examinesproposals to put billboards in space,considers the laws affecting such billboards,refutes the aesthetic and astronomicalobjections to space billboards, and finallyconcludes that restrictions on spacebillboards are not justified. Instead, spacebillboards should be permitted out of respectfor private property and free-speech rights.
I. BILLBOARDS IN SPACE
Advertising in space is not new, orparticularly controversial in itself. PizzaHut, for example, paid to place its logo onthe side of an unmanned Proton rocket in2000
– and Columbia Pictures advertisedthe famous Arnold Schwarzenegger flop,
The Last Action Hero
, on the side of a rocketcarrying the first private commercial spacemission.
Such publicity stunts have metwith little, if any, negative reaction because,after all, they involve ordinary spacevehicles people might not otherwise look at,and the money the sponsors pay presumablygoes to fund further space ventures.
Hereafter, when this paper refers to“space advertising” it has in mind somethingmore novel and provocative than thoserelatively mundane efforts: space billboards.For more than a decade, technology hasexisted that could put billboards in space.Not merely billboards for the manyanticipated space tourists of the near futureto see as they pass by,
but actual signs inlow orbit that would be visible from theEarth’s surface.The first and, to our knowledge, onlyserious proposal to place billboards in orbitaround the Earth came from MichaelLawson, chief executive officer of SpaceMarketing Concepts, Inc., in April 1993.
He proposed “environmental billboards” thatwould carry – in addition to a marketingmessage – scientific instruments such as“ozone measuring devices.”
According to a report by theInternational Astronomical Union, the SpaceMarketing billboards would have been aboutone square kilometer in dimension andwould have been comparable to a full moonin their size and brightness in the sky.
Other reports, however, have suggested thatspace billboards might appear half the sizeof the moon, perhaps one tenth as bright,and only visible during certain hours, arounddusk and dawn.