Tim Peake: Space science should trump space tourism
British astronaut Tim Peake has challenged space industry and its leaders such as Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos to consider sustainability more when planning new missions into space.
“We need to have a regulatory framework and make sure that we don’t put any more debris up into space,” Peake urged at the HR Technologies conference this week at London’s ExCel.
Peake spoke primarily about how he and his fellow astronauts worked together as a team at the HR conference, noting how it was vital to build a well-connected, level-headed team for such a high-pressured job.
“It’s all about leadership, teamwork, communication, fellowship, as well as that ability to communicate and collaborate that is absolutely vital for a mission success,” he noted.
When asked about his opinion on the commercialisation of space, the astronaut firmed that travelling that distance should be done responsibly: “We need to be making sure that the fuels we use are doing as minimal damage and having a minimal impact on the environment.”
Over the past couple of years, Richard Branson, owner of commercial space firm Virgin Galactic and Jeff Bezos, owner of Blue Origin have all been flown into outer space as part of plans to create a space tourism sector.
And what was one small step for them, could be a much larger leap for mankind, the industry believe, or at least for those who can afford to pay for it.
“Commercialisation of space is happening on a rapid scale,” acknowledged Peake. “Of course, it’s for high net worth individuals who’ve got the money to go.”
However, he argues that it’s more important to be conscious of the impact these journeys have on the environment: “From my point of view, I think anything that we do in space, should be for the benefit of the people on Earth.”
“It should be about science, it should be about exploration, and about research and innovation,” he added during his keynote speech.
When Peake made his journey to space in 2015, it was to conduct research on the International Space Station, such as pharmaceutical tests for researchers on Earth.
On top of commercial journeys, companies such as SpaceX and Virgin Orbit are sending satellites, with plans to launch hundreds more, into orbit for connectivity purposes.
At the beginning of this year, Virgin Orbit launched its first rocket, hosting only satellites, from British soil, but the launch failed after it had left the Earth’s atmosphere, leaving the rocket and nine satellites attached to burn away.
“Space is becoming more congested,” concerned Peake. “We need to make sure that we are staying ahead of the game in terms of our regulations to manage that.”
According to a survey done by satellite firm Inmarsat, as many as 100,000 operational satellites could be in orbit by 2030.
With that many satellites, a heavy concern is that they will crash into each other, especially at the high speeds they travel, causing thousands of broken up pieces to enter the orbit and create even more obstacles for future satellite and rocket launches.
Satellite companies Inmarsat and Astrocast have spoken to TI about the worry of increased space junk, and said they are tackling it by making their satellites more durable and smart.
This means that each satellite is fitted with a tracker that shares its whereabouts with not only its own company, but others as well, so to avoid clashes.
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