Space is on demand. There are almost 5 000 satellites orbiting our planet, and companies like Starlink plan on launching 12 000 more to start delivering internet access with lower latency than any optical fiber network on Earth. You can even launch your own satellite right now for just a couple thousand US dollars. But did you also know that almost 80 % of what has been launched in space has become debris?
The Outer Space Treaty is an international agreement on space law, and as of 2019, 209 countries are parties to the treaty. However, this treaty only mentions the following:
“States Parties to the Treaty shall [...] avoid [outer space’s] harmful contamination and also adverse changes in the environment of the Earth resulting from the introduction of extraterrestrial matter [...]“.
As for today, there is clearly a lack of international concern on the sustainability and morality of space exploration. And now it’s the time to discuss how this research can be done ethically, and how innovation for space can be used to improve life on Earth. Big private corporations don’t ask for permission, and several are already thinking about asteroid mining. There is no forum or summit that brings all stakeholders together, both public and private.
Anushka ‘Nush’ Sharma is an entrepreneur passionate about space exploration. Her startup ‘Naaut’ focuses on bringing innovation and creativity to the space sector. For her, space is the equalizer. An unknown startup based in Nigeria might have the key to the new insulator material for upcoming planetary robots. But it is not only technology that needs to improve: the expansion of humanity outside our planet will bring new needs and reinvent the way of living not only in other places, but also the life on Earth. Space will bring new forms of entrepreneurship, new methods of sharing and elevate efficiency to levels never seen before. With these challenges, some others will come along, such as how to maintain both mental and physical health of astronauts travelling for hundreds of days to Mars or Jupiter’s icy moon Europa. Some of the first colons on these astronomical objects will have to be farmers, builders, metalworkers and political leaders. If humanity wants to start conquering the Solar System, it will certainly have to go back to its roots.
Right now, the sector needs designers, thinkers, lawyers and many more to lead its development towards a sustainable economy. Nush inspires everyone interested in space to not be discouraged by, as she says, “not being a rocket scientist”, and to intervene in the ongoing discussion to create a fair, ethical and equal galactic future.