Sustainable future in space and on Earth

SEE Lab and Telespazio

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Even though none of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals directly incorporates space, the space industry contributes to achieving all of them. A specific eighteenth Goal could ensure the sustainability of space exploration and future lunar and Martian settlements.

 

The aspiration was expressed at a conference organized by SDA Bocconi’s Space Economy Evolution Lab (SEE Lab) and Telespazio. The presentation of a book (Space in Our Hands, by David W. Brown, published by Mimesis) was attended by astronaut Paolo Nespoli (pictured above) and most of the other key players in the space economy who were interviewed for the publication. Nespoli introduced the new philosophy for space and sustainability at the heart of the SEE Lab project, which gave rise to the book. The SEE Lab and Telespazio objective was to increase awareness of the issues at stake, especially among younger generations, stimulating a change of mentality and action.

 

During the conference, space sustainability was approached from four perspectives:

 

  • Terrestrial sustainability requires a large amount of data, provided by satellites dedicated to monitoring the health of the planet and providing valuable early warnings regarding natural disasters. Half of the 54 "essential climate variables" listed by the World Meteorological Association are measured by satellites.

 

  • Spacecraft dedicated to communications, navigation, agriculture, and space weather are examples of large-scale sustainability. Satellite communications have connected disadvantaged populations not yet reached by physical infrastructure.

 

  • A space sustainability issue concerns Earth's orbit, where the problem of space debris must be addressed with the utmost attention and urgency. Currently, the Earth is surrounded by about 6,000 satellites, most of which are space debris, hindering our ability to launch into low Earth orbit.

 

  • The principles of space sustainability need to be extended to human expansion on celestial bodies beyond Earth. In the short term, survival on Mars will only be possible through external resources, and every molecule brought to the red planet must be recycled to enable colonists to achieve greater self-sufficiency.

 

From the privileged perspective of someone who has been able to observe the Earth from space for 313 days over the years, Nespoli concluded by emphasizing the absolute necessity of international cooperation to progress on the path of space sustainability.

 

SDA Bocconi School of Management

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