When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Sources

The New Space Race: Europe's Competitive Advantage Is Wisdom

With more and more state and private entities setting their sights on space, Europe will need to assert itself, but in a safe, responsible way.

The SpaceX crew about to liftoff, 23 April 2021.
The SpaceX crew about to liftoff, 23 April 2021.
Patrick Baudry*

-OpEd-

PARIS — Space is the most beautiful place on Earth. That's what I realized when I came back from my space flight, on June 24, 1985. But unless we rethink the rules governing our starry sky, space could also present some very real dangers.

Never before has the adventure of space travel attracted so many players, from states to private companies. And no longer is there just one space-race, but many, and much of it driven by the private sector, a movement sometimes referred to as NewSpace. There's the lunar base, the conquest of Mars, new orbital stations, manned space flights and mega-constellations of satellites.

NASA's SpaceX Crew-2 mission to the International Space Station​, rocket launched on April 23, 2021. — Photo: NASA/ZUMA Wire/ZUMA

The latter are particularly problematic, as companies all want their satellites in low orbit to provide high-speed connection, power the Internet of Things, and provide observation services. As such, this tiny strip in space between 400 km (the orbit of the ISS) and 1,500 km is currently being colonized: Starlink already has more than 1,200 satellites in orbit out of the 30,000 to 40,000 devices that are planned.

Amazon is getting on board as well. Its Project Kuiper has already been granted authorization for 6,000 satellites. China, for its part, has allowed 15 Chinese companies to get a share of the pie. And Europe too has made it clear that it wants to get in on other action.

Our near-Earth space could turn into a new sword of Damocles above our heads.

Last year, EU Commissioner Thierry Breton announced the launch of the bloc's own mega-constellation project. But to meet this challenge, Europe will have to change its space economic model, by reducing the cost of its launch vehicles, developing its own processes to manage space traffic and debris, and working more effectively with start-ups. This industrial gamble can only succeed if Europe tackles another equally difficult challenge: establishing responsible operating and regulatory standards within low earth orbit.

As space becomes useful for all, the number of objects orbiting around the Earth is de facto multiplying exponentially. While humanity has put some 9,000 satellites into orbit since Sputnik, a mega-constellation project alone involves two to three times that amount. And as of right now, about 50 such projects are in the works. It's clear, as a result, that we will very soon be confronted with new risks of collision, debris and interference.

In the absence of rules to better anticipate and manage these risks, our near-Earth space could turn into a new sword of Damocles above our heads: a new environmental, technological and industrial trap. Rules should be preventive. Among other things, operators of mega-constellations must be required to assess the environmental impact of their projects.

Patrick_Baudry_French_astronaut

Former French austronaut Patrick Baudry. — Photo: RCA La Radio

Prevention is crucial in a sector where finding fixes — such as the collection of debris — is astronomically expensive at best and improbable at worst. Most of all, let us not forget that how we use space will directly affect our condition and quality of life on Earth!

Europe must respond to this double challenge. If the bloc doesn't decide today to get politically involved in the regulation of low-earth orbit, it will surely lose the little autonomy it has left. We don't want to be left behind. But we also don't want to get caught up in a race without rules. Instead, let's show the way to a safe and well-managed space! Starting today, we must learn to use space in a more responsible way than we have down here on Earth.


*Patrick Baudry is a French author, lecturer and former astronaut.

You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
Society

Jehovah's Witnesses Translate The Bible In Indigenous Language — Is This Colonialism?

The Jehovah's Witnesses in Chile have launched a Bible version translated into the native Mapudungun language, evidently indifferent to the concerns of a nation striving to save its identity from the Western cultural juggernaut.

A Mapuche family awaits for Chilean President Gabriel Boric to arrive at the traditional Te Deum in the Cathedral of Santiago, on Chile's Independence Day.

Claudia Andrade

NEUQUÉN — The Bible can now be read in Mapuzugun, the language of the Mapuche, an ancestral nation living across Chile and Argentina. It took the Chilean branch of the Jehovah's Witnesses, a latter-day Protestant church often associated with door-to-door proselytizing and cold calling, three years to translate it into "21st-century Mapuzugun".

The church's Mapuche members in Chile welcomed the book when it was launched in Santiago last June, but some of their brethren see it rather as a cultural imposition. The Mapuche were historically a fighting nation, and fiercely resisted both the Spanish conquerors and subsequent waves of European settlers. They are still fighting for land rights in Chile.

Keep reading...Show less

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS

Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

Watch VideoShow less
MOST READ