Looking at a rocket launch, it is difficult not to be amazed by the scene of a huge machine shooting straight up into the sky, creating enormous smoke clouds around it. The astronauts on the rocket have trained for years for this moment and have a hectic few months of important scientific work awaiting them. However, with the rise of space tourism, some things have changed. These new space travelers do not receive much training and go to space mostly for their entertainment. While it is impressive that within a few decades, space flight has become so much more accessible, it also raises the question of whether we are prepared for a large space tourism economy, especially from a safety and sustainability standpoint.
In the middle of May, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nia van Woggelum for the first edition of our new interview series ‘Women in Space for Safety and Sustainability’. Nia has over twelve years of experience producing composite products and is currently working as the Manager of Operations at GTM Advanced Structures. We spoke about her career journey, aspects of safety and sustainability that she encounters in her work, as well as her experiences as a woman of color in her field.
On 10 March 2023, NASA published a study into the costs and benefits of orbital debris remediation. NASA cited the importance of sustainability in space for future generations to use and explore the domain as one of the key factors in the decision to undertake this incredibly detailed study.
On March 3rd, 2023, US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin released updated guidelines for safe and responsible space operations in a memo labelled "Tenets of Responsible Behaviour in Space." The memo covers five tenets, outlining specific behaviour applicable to military operations.
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How does space technology help us with climate issues here on earth? The use of space technologies for disaster management as well as climate change-related issues continues to gain increasing attention around the world. Several national space organizations such as the European Space Agency (ESA) and Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) are calling for an active increase in the use of satellites for disaster mitigation and recovery efforts.
As a species, humans have progressed rapidly over the last half-century towards a world of information. The rise of the internet has changed the expectations and ability of learning and communicating. Although this change does seem ubiquitous, a large portion of the population still lacks consistent internet access. This discrepancy lies in the profitability and feasibility of building ground infrastructure for wireless broadband. Now, however, with the rise of the commercial space industry partnering with nations throughout the globe, orbital satellites in Low-Earth Orbit (LEO), Mid-Earth Orbit (MEO), and Geospatial-Earth Orbit (GEO) have the capacity to revolutionize internet accessibility. In accordance with the UN Sustainable Development Goal 17, Partnerships, countries and private companies are at a precipice to expand internet accessibility.
The space sector has seen expansive growth over recent years. With it, the role of space agencies has also evolved. Besides interacting with the private sector, they have also expanded their involvement within different industries. In addition, space-based technologies are playing an impactful role in addressing societal issues. The United Nations has developed 17 Sustainable Development Goals to tackle such challenges, including the “UN SDG 7 - Clean and Affordable Energy.” The aim is to “ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all” (United Nations, 2020).
United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14: Life Below Water seeks to conserve and sustainably use the world's oceans, seas, and marine resources. Underpinning SDG 14 are time-bound targets for all nations to strive for.
(SUMMARY) Accelerated technological convergence and dedicated information sharing mechanisms have made satellite technology an indispensable asset to developing countries. Far from being a luxury, earth observation missions spearheaded by various space agencies have demonstrated immediate benefits for populations most vulnerable to natural disasters. Authors: Jean Lévy, Niki Sajjad