Earth Day: Let’s Cut Back on Satellites

Image (Credit): The growth of all tracked objects in space over time. (‘The Case for Space Environmentalism,” Nature, April 22, 2022)

An article in Nature is encouraging a new approach to satellites as we recognize Earth Day. The article, “The Case for Space Environmentalism,” highlights the growth of satellites (estimated to reach more than 100,000 by the end of the decade) and related debris as well as its impact on professional astronomy, public stargazing, and the sustainability of commercial, civic, and military activity in space. The paper states:

We have laid out the argument for the urgent need for orbital space to be considered part of the human environment. Adequately addressing the problems detailed above will require a holistic approach that treats orbital space as part of the environment, and worthy of environmental protection through existing and new policies, rules and regulations at national and international levels. We urge decision makers and policymakers to consider the environmental impacts of all aspects of satellite constellations, including launch, operation and de-orbit, and to work with all stakeholders to co-create a shared, ethical, sustainable approach to space.

This is the perfect day to consider the need to protect the environment on the ground and in the heavens. Happy Earth Day!