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Artificial Satellite Pollution, Perils For Biodiversity In Space And On Earth

Exploiting space resources and littering it with satellite and other anthropogenic objects is endangering the ecosystem of space, which also damages the earth and its creatures below.

Outer space isn’t what most people would think of as an ecosystem. Its barren and frigid void isn’t exactly akin to the verdant canopies of a rainforest or to the iridescent shoals that swim among coral cities. But if we are to become better stewards of the increasingly frenzied band of orbital space above our atmosphere, a shift to thinking of it as an ecosystem — as part of an interconnected system of living things interacting with their physical environment — may be just what we need.

Last month, in the journal Nature Astronomy, a collective of 11 astrophysicists and space scientists proposed we do just that, citing the proliferation of anthropogenic space objects. Thousands of satellites currently orbit the Earth, with commercial internet providers such as SpaceX’s Starlink launching new ones at a dizzying pace. Based on proposals for projects in the future, the authors note, the number could reach more than a hundred thousand within the decade. Artificial satellites, long a vital part of the space ecosystem, have arguably become an invasive species.

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COVID & Fertility, Airplanes 5G Warning, R2D2 Moon

👋 ഹലോ!*

Welcome to Thursday, where Kim Jong-un offers to reopen hotline with Seoul, a 96-year-old Nazi war crime suspect flees and a Turkish man gets so drunk he joins a search party for himself. From France, we also take a look, and listen, to the surprisingly loud noises of the countryside.

[*halēā - Malayalam, India & Malaysia]

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Deadly Japan Fire, France Blocks UK Travelers, Mars’ Grand Canyon Water

👋 Zdravo!*

Welcome to Friday, where Purdue Pharma’s $4.5 billion opioid settlement is overturned, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un celebrates his 10th year in office and water is found in Mars’ Grand Canyon. Weekly news magazine Jeune Afrique also looks at the reasons behind the Muslim Brotherhood’s failure to properly run national governments.

[*Serbian]

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In The News
Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Taliban Decree On Women, Averted Shutdown, Metal Planet

👋 Sannu!*

Welcome to Friday, where the Taliban issue a decree on women’s rights, the U.S. avoids another government shutdown, and we discover the most metallic planet ever. Delhi-based news website The Wire also suggests Indians should pause before any nationalistic boasting about the choice of Parag Agarwal as new Twitter CEO.

[*Hausa - Nigeria & Niger]

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Sources
Patrick Baudry*

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.

-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.

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BBC

The Latest: Jerusalem Clashes, Russia Pulls Back Troops, Brexit Ponies

Welcome to Friday, where tensions between far-right Jewish activists and Palestinians escalate in Jerusalem, Russia withdraws troops from Ukraine border and four ponies jump over Brexit obstacle. German conservative daily Die Welt also tells us why the country's political parties should keep a close eye on the Greens' candidate in the upcoming chancellor election.

• Hundreds injured in East Jerusalem clashes: Clashes in East Jerusalem between far-right Jewish activists, Palestinians and Israeli police have left over 100 people injured. Tensions have escalated between Palestinians and Jewish extremists since the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, on April 13.

• Indian hospital fire kills 13: At least 13 persons have died after a fire ravaged the intensive care unit of an hospital treating COVID patients near Mumbai. This incident comes as India is facing its highest number of cases and oxygen shortages.

• Russia to withdraw from Ukraine border: Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu announced on Thursday that Russia will pull back its troops near Ukraine and annexed Crimea. Western countries had criticized what they viewed as a show of force.

• UK calls out China in Uyghur genocide: The House of Commons has stated for the first time that a genocide against Uyghurs is taking place in the north-west China's Xinjiang region. MPs are asking the British government to take action, while Beijing condemned the declaration.

• SpaceX rocket launch: NASA astronauts Megan McArthur and Shane Kimbrough, French astronaut Thomas Pesquet and Japan's Akihiko Hoshide have successfully lifted-off on a SpaceX rocket heading to the International Space Station. The launch, originally planned for last Thursday, was delayed because of poor weather conditions.

• State funeral for Chad's slain president: Thousands of people have gathered to pay tribute to Chad's late President Idriss Deby, who died in clashes with rebels on Monday. French President Emmanuel Macron and several African leaders are expected to attend the funeral, in the capital N'Djamena.

• Ponies overcome Brexit hurdle: Four ponies, bought as a birthday gift and detained for a month at Belfast Port over incorrect post-Brexit paperwork, are now to be released, but may face a 30-day quarantine upon arrival in Britain.

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Geopolitics

A Quick Glance In Space As Pandemic Consumes Planet Earth Below

The colossal impacts of that tiny virus are visible from space. Wired magazine reported about a Colorado-based space technology company Maxartaking low-Earth orbit satellite photographs of COVID-19 hotspots, capturing images of empty cities, make-shift hospitals being constructed and airport rental car lots suddenly filled with cars as people stopped traveling.

But the flipside question to those photos is also worth asking: What is the impact of coronavirus on space?

Despite the outbreak, NASA is working hard to ensure the launch of the Mars 2020 mission in July. Limiting or even suspending other space projects amid the global pandemic, the US Space Agency made Mars 2020 its top priority, especially since their Chinese counterparts have no intention of giving up their ambitious Martian project Huoxing-1 scheduled for take-off on July 23, reports Le Monde.

Some missions are still being carried out: American astronaut Chris Cassidy and Russian Cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner were launched to the International Space Station on April 9 after being quarantined for two weeks.

Three other astronauts, instead, are set to leave what might be the "safest place for human beings," after more than six months aboard the ISS, with return scheduled for Friday to an Earth that is forever changed. In a video interview, U.S. astronaut Jessica Meir said that she and her fellow crew members exercise daily to maintain their physical and mental health, and keep in touch with friends and family via weekly video chats. Sound familiar?

Meanwhile, NASA has set up a crowdsourcing platform to exchange research ideas to aid in the fight against the pandemic, with three areas in which it could potentially make the most meaningful difference: personal protective equipment, ventilators and forecasting the spread and impact of the coronavirus.

Al-Jazeera reports that NASA with the Space Medicine Innovations Laboratory at Dartmouth University have developed a self-guided online program to manage conflict, stress, and depression. This conflict resolution module designed for astronauts on missions for long periods of time in tight living quarters is now available for everyone.

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CLARIN
Gonzalo Herman

The Sad Story Of Argentina's Disappearing Space Rocks

Campo del Cielo, in the far north, has an usual concentration of meteorites. But little by little they're being pilfered, and often smuggled out of the country.

BUENOS AIRES — A long time ago, in an area far far from Argentina's big cities, a shower of meteorites rained down from the sky, littering a 15 by 70-sq-km patch of land with an untold number of space rocks.

The meteorites, spread out in the provinces of Chaco and Santiago del Estero, are the remnants of an 840,000-kilogram asteroid that exploded in our atmosphere. And to this day — some 4,000 years later — the Campo del Cielo (Sky Field), as it's known, remains one of the strangest places on earth, torrid and utterly barren.

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India
Vasudevan Mukunth

Making A Very Metaphysical Leap Into 2019

Somewhere in between confusion and wonder is not a bad place to be at all.

NEW DELHI — It was recently my birthday. I turned 30. The celebrations were muted – if at all – because there's something of a moment when you exit the tweens, and then the first digit of your age changes from 2 to 3. On that day, it seemed more pertinent than ever to think of the occasion as ‘just another orbit around the Sun." To further blunt the moment, I told myself I was only turning 3.94 galactic seconds old, no biggie.

Time is a strange thing, but let us not belabor the point. Only two statements should suffice to spotlight its strangeness. First, mathematics does not cognize time as an entity in and of itself far beyond thermodynamics: heat flows from a hotter object to a cooler one. The universe was really, really hot 13.8 billion years ago. One day, many billions of years from now, it will go really, really cold and – somewhere in the maze of our equations – time will die. On that day, your birthday will have no meaning. At long last.

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Future

Watch: OneShot — 50 Years Ago, Earthrise

The Earth also rises ...

On Dec. 24, 1968, on the first human orbit of the Moon, astronaut Williams Anders looked out the window of Apollo 8. Reaching for his camera, and its color film, Anders would capture an image that would change human perspectives of our planet, ourselves and our place in the universe.

Earthrise — © NASA/William Anders | OneShot

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Luxembourg
Vasudevan Mukunth

Universal Stakes, Who Owns The Rights For Space Exploitation

Tiny Luxembourg is taking a leading role in devising the laws necessary to regulate the business of space exploration.

Of the 195 countries in the world, only 27 are smaller than Luxembourg. The landlocked country in western Europe has the world's second highest GDP per capita (more than $104,000). Its lands are rich in iron ore and, since the 1970s, Luxembourg has been promoting itself as a hub of financial services in Europe. The country has had a stable government and is generally welcoming of foreigners. But in the near future — or even today — knowing this much about Luxembourg will not be enough.

What sets Luxembourg apart, in Europe and around the world, is the choice of its political leadership to use the opportunities afforded by space exploration and associated technologies to develop the country. On July 13, Luxembourg's Chamber of Deputies, its unicameral legislative body, passed a law that recognizes the legal ownership of resources mined in outer space by private companies. The law is reportedly compliant with the Outer Space Treaty (OST) 1967, ratified by 107 countries, including Luxembourg.

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