US gov seeks space billboard ban

The sky's the limit

Updated The US government is seeking powers that will allow it to ban billboards in space. The Federal Aviation Administration has put forward plans to amend regulations so it can prohibit "obtrusive" advertising in zero gravity. The fear is not about adding to the already growing band of space junk but about retaining space as a thing of wonder rather than a giant advertising hoarding.

"Objects placed in orbit, if large enough, could be seen by people around the world for long periods of time," the FAA said in a regulatory filing, Reuters reports. "Large advertisements could destroy the darkness of the night sky."

The news agency adds that outsized billboards deployed into low Earth orbit could "appear as large as the moon". A chilling prospect indeed. Imagine a far future where children know portions of the night sky as Pepsi, Nike and Virgin Galactica rather than as Capricorn, Taurus and Virgo.

Granted, watching astronauts avoiding hoardings punting The Sun newspaper might make space walks more entertaining. But the threat of evil geniuses using oversized board's to blot out the Sun's rays, a la Montgomery Burns, is surely one that ought to be contained. James Bond might be pretty good at dealing with evil kitty-stroking maniacs bent on world domination and armed with laser beams. But strategy boutique types armed with flip-charts and out of this world ad campaigns form an altogether different threat.

On the other hand the space billboard ban may be just so the US itself has a clear field of fire for its space cannons, as Reg reader Matt and others have pointed out. ®

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