Imagine alien prospector wanting to build "space highway" through our solar system. There could be another route, but the one leading to our system is "the best"

Such prospector also wants to use Jupiter orbit as "space gas station, with bar". Jupiter could be used not only because of its gravitational attributes, but simply because it would provide a stunning view for spacecrafts passing by.

The alien law states only one clause: If in given solar system is a planet with a civilisation which can detonate an atomic bomb, you have to have an agreement of such planet.

In our case, it would mean, that "space highway" has to be voted by UN and approved by majority of votes of all United Nations countries.

The prospector is willing to trade, offering to humanity new, shiny space station packed with cutting edge tech (from Earth point view). There would be nothing unknown to humanity, but imagine onboard computer having capabilities of top 500 supercomputer but also being shielded from space environment.

Also, prospector thinks, that if humanity knows, that if they make it to such "space bar" on their own, they could buy things from gas pump or such bar. And there are going to be "alien technologies"

The biggest drawback is, that our alien has to have a majority of Earth agreeing with such "space bar" and he would like Earth to agree in next 10 years. If agreement is not met, next detour is around Proxima Centauri solar system.

How should our alien proceed? He wants to approach us "tomorrow" (Earth current day)

Some background

Aliens see us the same way as we see "low paid jobs nationality." If you are American, imagine meeting Mexican. For Germans it would be Turkish and for Czechs it is Ukrainians. They would treat us the same way as we treat them:

  • Do not generally care how Earth lives and what is its technical development
  • Do not care who is representant of Earth
  • "All earth people are the same" racist approach
  • Do not care what alien technology is going to do with Earth

If someone from Earth manages it to this space gas station, they are going to be approached the same way as American would approach someone from Mexico:

"Uh, I am new here. How can I buy stuff?"

  • "Space credits, dude."

"And how do I get some?"'

  • "Sorry, I have no change right now."

"How do I apply for membership in space union?"

  • "Just 25 light years away there is space union branch."

"And who is your leader?"

  • "Xulguth the Great, duh! You never heard of him?"

(And so on. Basically assume same level of racism and racial profiling as you would do in your normal day when meeting someone from "foreign workers" nationality)

Also, you may assume, that all aliens posses "universal translator" device which allow them to understand every language which has been ever broadcasted on TV

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    $\begingroup$ "Do not care who is representant of Earth" doesn't compute. If the alien law states that "the planet must agree", then it must certainly state who is going to be accepted as planet's representative. (besides this point, good question!) $\endgroup$
    – o0'.
    Apr 24, 2015 at 12:48
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    $\begingroup$ @Lohoris I tried to mention that "common alien does not care" as if common American does not care who represents Mexico (I assume) $\endgroup$ Apr 24, 2015 at 13:02
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    $\begingroup$ If there is a law that states that you must deal the the official representative of Mexico, then you do care, i.e. if you deal with the wrong representative, then you are not abiding to that law. So he "sort-of" cares. $\endgroup$
    – o0'.
    Apr 24, 2015 at 13:34
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    $\begingroup$ English might not be your native tongue and I understand that, but running this through MS Word or any other program with a good spell check and grammar check would do wonders for the quality. $\endgroup$
    – Jax
    Apr 24, 2015 at 15:29
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    $\begingroup$ Sounds like the Asimov story "Buy Jupiter".aliens wanted to put advertisements on the planet..and the smart operator Human had Saturn in reserve to sell to the competition $\endgroup$
    – Oldcat
    Apr 24, 2015 at 21:48

8 Answers 8


You question makes two stipulations:

  • The alien law states only one clause: If in [the] given solar system [there] is a planet with a civilisation [that] can detonate an atomic bomb, you have to have an agreement [with] such planet.
  • Aliens see us the same way as we see [people from poorer countries].

The conclusion you come to is that :

In our case it would mean that [the] "space highway" has to be [...] approved by [a] majority [of UN member states].

I disagree. Let's take the example of the Panama Canal. The US offered to buy the land for the canal from the Colombian government, but their Senate refused the deal. So, the US simply decided that some Panamanian rebels who were willing to deal were the 'legitimate' government of Panama, and supported them in overthrowing Colombian control of Panama.

This case would be even simpler. The aliens would just build their highway and take Jupiter. We have no way to stop them, and we aren't even living there. If there is a public outcry on the aliens' home planet, their government simply explains the situation one of two ways:

  • "China is totally OK with this, and they're the real, legitimate government of Earth. In fact, we're sending them a couple of shipments of lasguns to support their bid for independence from the evil, backwards, illegitimate nations US and Russia."
  • "Wow, we had no idea that Earth had nuclear weapons, seeing as they are so backward and simple-minded. We'll launch an investigative committee to advise us how we can avoid this in the future. They should come back to us with a decision in 10-15 years. In the meantime, visit the brand new Jupiter station today!"

Those with power don't have to obey the rules. In this case, the aliens have the power so they can do whatever they want.

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    $\begingroup$ This is so true. If I give assumption, that they do not care, the prospector would probably fake the installment. +1 and I think that you deserve extra internet points $\endgroup$ Apr 24, 2015 at 17:51
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    $\begingroup$ "The system is composed of 3 inner planets, an asteroid belt, and 4 gas giants, one of which we will be building a station around. Also of note is a large debris field between the second and third planets which evidence suggests may have previously been a planet with a single moon." $\endgroup$
    – corsiKa
    Apr 24, 2015 at 20:56
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    $\begingroup$ They could also confiscate the nuclear weapons then pretend they never existed and build the highway anyway $\endgroup$ Apr 25, 2015 at 3:36
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    $\begingroup$ "Those with power don't have to obey the rules." Agreed, but power is relative. Sure they have power compared to Earth, but what about whoever is enforcing this law? If it's simply their home planet, you're probably right. If there's some sort of league or federation of planets (with more teeth than the UN, obviously), it might not be so simple. The US got the Panama canal, but what if someone else had tried? $\endgroup$
    – Geobits
    Apr 25, 2015 at 16:59

They pull into orbit. Analyze our broadcasts to work out universal translator software. Broadcast out a signal. "We intend to build this outside Jupiter. Here are advantages for you. Here is the license we require from you. Here is what we are willing to offer in return" in every language.

From there it just becomes standard diplomacy and negotiations. The aliens as you describe them are not actively harmful to earth so would probably agree reasonable terms and then move on. The UN would no doubt be paranoid and do a lot of arguing but the simple fact that the aliens are willing to deal in the first place rather than just move in without permission would be a huge sign in their favor. After all if they set up anything they liked around Jupiter there really is nothing we could do about it!

The ripple effects through earth society though at confirmation of alien life, and potential scientific or other breakthroughs that come from the contact, would be huge. That is where the main effects would be.

Even if the aliens don't sell us any technology as part of the deal we're still going to learn a lot just from seeing what and how they do. Sometimes just knowing that something is possible is half of the work needed to find out how to do it.

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    $\begingroup$ They would be willing to sell it. But you have to have space credits first. I am putting humankind into "beggar at the corner" role $\endgroup$ Apr 24, 2015 at 11:29
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    $\begingroup$ @PavelJanicek So we negotiate for space credits as part of the Jupiter lease :) (or at least some technology up front as part of the deal). $\endgroup$
    – Tim B
    Apr 24, 2015 at 11:32
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    $\begingroup$ Could always sell things they don't have for space credits - Earth life forms or rocks to study, our music, art, things that are unique to us they couldn't get anywhere else, services (spaceship-wash & detailing? open a space-motel after we reverse-engineer their space station they are giving us?). $\endgroup$
    – vapcguy
    Apr 24, 2015 at 22:31

You said they would give us a 'shiny new, cutting edge space station' in return for trade privileges. Now, assuming we have a leadership with rudimentary intelligence (and that's a big stretch) the United Nations would approve the deal. If the aliens build a highway and pit stop at Jupiter it would really benefit us more than harm us.

The shiny new space station will probably be placed in orbit around Earth. From there we can reverse engineer the technology and mass produce it. This could solve our energy problem (might have clean energy) and would make colonization of the Solar System easier. Just stuff people and supplies into our station, send a quick alert to the aliens that we call dibs on Mars and send them to start a colony. It would probably be more complicated than that, but you get my point.

We should also ensure that the contract says what we think it does (e.g. Make sure there is no 'we get to "enlist your cooperation"' or 'We get free reign on your planetary resources' clause.

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    $\begingroup$ This opens up a great plot. Creating an alliance and warring with futuristic tech within many of our own lifetimes. We would likely become a tourist attraction due to the relatively rare occurrence of intelligent life. Alien scientists would be scraping at the bid to get a close examination of one of us. We could easily trade Earth life to them in exchange for basic FTL capabilities (assuming the space station didn't come with it). In four decades or so we would probably have a colony or settlement at some other star system. $\endgroup$
    – Jax
    Apr 24, 2015 at 14:49
  • $\begingroup$ Original question says there's nothing on the space station we don't already know about, so there's nothing to reverse engineer unless you reach the Jupiter station $\endgroup$ Apr 25, 2015 at 3:38
  • $\begingroup$ @TomJNowell Fair enough. But the point still stands that if an alien race offered the U.N. a 'shiny new' space station complete with super computers 500 times the current power of a supercomputer they would be idiots to not accept that deal! considering the aliens could easily build their station and we would be able to do nothing. It's not like lawyers on Earth have been studying alien law. It's also not like we could report them (with our lack of interstellar travel) for violation of the galactic code. $\endgroup$
    – Jax
    Apr 27, 2015 at 12:49


The requirements that the United Nations - and EU - would (okay... should) request is that the Aliens undertake a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) prior to any development. This examines and tracks any decision-making that could have cultural or environmental impacts. It doesn't enforce, it just recommends and tracks decisions.

Next, prior to construction, they should undertake an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), which we call an EIS in the states. This identifies impacts and decides how to mitigate the impacts on the space and culture they're affecting.

Finally, although maybe not in this case, the Aliens must undertake a Preliminary Cultural Review (PCR). If there are impacts on us, they must identify them, and show how to mitigate or compensate for these impacts.

That is what the UN and EU would require. From the results of those studies, the UN could recommend that the Aliens proceed with development, and there would be a set number of days for anyone to comment. Information on the project will be displayed in Geneva only, for anyone on Earth & Jupiter and elsewhere to provide public input :)


Even if the aliens do not care what the presence of this technology will do to Earth, they would be well advised to provide some sort of evidence that it won't be grossly harmful in order to keep the natives from causing trouble. (Also in order to keep those do-gooders in the Society for the Protection of Primitive Species off their backs.)

So they should provide an outline of the science involved. If possible get (or fake) glowing testimonials from other species who've already agreed to similar projects.

As for who to talk to, they should let slip that any of the local chiefs who sign up will obviously be entitled to a few technological goodies right now - the equivalent of the string of beads allegedly used by a Dutch trader to buy Manhattan Island.


I think the hard part would be each nation wanting to make sure they got a piece of the pie, and it might be hard to do that with a single space station and set of equipment.
They'll be fighting over it like a bunch of parents fighting over the last Tickle Me Elmo. At some point some idiot will say "If I can't have it no one will" and shoot it down.

What would be a lot better would be the plans and theory for some technology that could be shared every where. Clean cold fusion, replicators, teleportation... Something that would help bring the poor nations up to a level closer to the rich nations, and not destroy the planet in the process.

Granted, the space station could have those things on it, but the reverse engineering would be handled by the rich nation governments and multinational corporations (since they have the resources to do something like that) and the poor nations would (rightly) be afraid that the technology would be limited and controlled.
Say Lockhead Martin got the right to reverse engineer the replicator, then they get to build and sell them to anyone that can afford to buy one, at a 100 million dollars apiece, and no one else gets to make one, and anyone that tries gets sued...

Some people would say that it's important not to disturb the status quo, but those people are the ones that are making all the money from the way things are now.
It would be a disaster for everyone else.

Also, any agreement should be a lease for the space around Jupiter, not sale outright. Something like the Chinese did with Britain for Hong Kong with the 99 year lease.

  • $\begingroup$ There's precedent for sharing when it comes to space stations, though - the ISS, after all. The problem is just in the advanced technology you mentioned - everyone will want to know they are getting "all the goods" - blueprints, technical specs, electrical consumption requirements, etc. That all could be handled and distributed via the UN through scientific groups/associations - not necessarily just the "rich" and "multinational corporations", though I'm sure they would lobby for the rights for the information. Since it could be publicly posted online for all, I don't think there's an issue. $\endgroup$
    – vapcguy
    Apr 24, 2015 at 22:38
  • $\begingroup$ I admire your faith in humanity. I'm mostly an optimist, but I just don't see it going well. Hopefully the UN would be up to the challenge. ISS doesn't really count because everyone up there is contributing to it. Money and equipment. $\endgroup$
    – AndyD273
    Apr 25, 2015 at 0:26

When earth finds out about the existence of aliens their will be a lot of sci fi fueled panic. Given that the aliens could technically blow us to smithereens humanity will agree on whatever the aliens want ( almost ). Of course they agree, we would agree to almost anything that wouldn't destroy us if we don't know that the aliens follow their own rules.

The most valuable thing humanity can gain is clues to far superior tech. Many probes are sent out towards Jupiter to monitor their activity ( unless they object to this. ) A huge range of instruments are sent towards the aliens or aimed at them from earth. ( fly through their exhaust trail to help work out interstellar engines. ) A manned mission will probably be attempted.

Given that aliens do not have (identical to) earth manufacturing capabilities the tech they give us may be nano fabricated. In this case finding a single broken nanobot trapped in something and analyzing it with an atomic microscope will let us build our own version from the same principles far more easily. I therefore expect that the space station would be cut into samples and analyzed, at least some of the less vital or easy to replace parts.

If you were tasked to build a "vacuum tube" computer for the 1940's you might well present them with a bunch of useless vacuum tubes wasting energy and small microchip hidden in the frame. We can expect, or at least suspect such a more efficient component and a "do nothing" from the aliens as well. Finding them could also be worthwhile. Maybe the solar panels are fake and their is a tiny fusion reactor hidden in the hull? Expect humans to accept and scrutinize the aliens in detail.


I wasn't aware that the uninhabited planet of Jupiter was owned by anyone. How would such a transaction occur in the first place? I believe it falls under the heading of International waters legally speaking. Anybody who colonized the planet and claimed themselves a sovereign planet would be the owners.


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