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How do we Shape the New Space Race?

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14th May 2021

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The responsibility of coordinating the efforts to achieve space exploration fall upon increasingly diverse actors. Traditionally a nationstate market, the space exploration industry has become more privatized. How did that happen? Stan Stalnaker starts with the example of Spacebit, a UK company that entered the market and within 3 years has a rover that will deploy to the moon. How is it possible for a company to come together and get anything, let alone a functional rover, outside of our planet within that short time frame? The answer would suggest that entry into space exploration has become increasingly more possible. Systematic improvements have opened up the industry.

When businesses began talking about "sustainability" as a part of their work in the past, often it would be under a different branch of the organization. Now the process has become a vital part of the strategy of the work itself. It may cost more in innovation and product development, but will save the company profits in the long run. Organizational cultures have shifted over time. Space exploration has gone through a similar shift as an industry, allowing more access to the otherwise difficult to enter sector because of systematic shifts on many fronts simultaneously. Contemporary explorers are the benefactors of these changes, pushing creatively to explore the frontiers. 

One of the largest reasons for contemporary space exploration is the idea that it can support our species to overcome the scarcity trap. The scarcity trap is the idea that our planet is running out of elements, minerals and vital components to technology that we all use today at an alarming rate. Within the next 100 years, both lithium and phosphorus are going to dwindle drastically at current use rates. It’s the same planet, with more people on it, and we are going through its resources at times without appreciation or regard for the finiteness that these properties have on Earth. Many solutions occur while looking to the skies, and in this case, the asteroid belt. A single asteroid has about 15 trillion USD worth of resources and there are about 1.5 million of them floating around the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Do the math! With this potential, humanity is not constrained by the limitation of our planet. The economics of space make it overwhelmingly profitable for those that can figure out the problems of asteroid mining. Some of the people at this round table are concentrating on the collaboration necessary to solve some of these problems. 

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What role would you imagine Bermuda to play in the commercial space exploration model? For a remote island nation of 60,000 residents, it has a surprising role in the history of space exploration. The L.F. Wade International Airport is actually a NASA-grade commercial airport because Bermuda was used as a NASA Space Shuttle launch abort site to the US Space Shuttle landing. As history played out, Bermuda became the benefactor of a role in the traditional space exploration industry, and it is home to NASA weather technology. It also plays a role in communicating with the players involved in raising the capital necessary for organizing space exploration. Bermuda aims to be a top financial capital of the world and has long been home to the insurance industry. Their financial technology innovations for cryptocurrency and the emerging digital assets sector play a key role in the mobilization of a coordinating strategy for collaborating operations into space exploration. It takes a lot of work on the ground to get a functional operation in the air.  

The conversation on this podcast covers mining asteroids for mineral deposit and the lesser-known topic of space trash. Space Trash could be a punk band from the 90s, or a new concern to have that people weren't previously aware of today. As humans have polluted planet earth, and the ocean; now too, our effects have been felt in space. All the innovation and exploration has left a mark on the stratosphere as space junk, old dysfunctional satellites and equipment (some with radioactive properties) are orbiting around Earth with no clear path of re-entry or plan to clean the debris. Another suggested responsibility of this panel is to have ethics woven into the fabric of space exploration and clean up the mess made with previous explorations. Extinction Rebellion (definitely a punk rock band name from the 90s) representatives show up in the panel and advocate for co-creation and openness. Basically, our track record on planet Earth with extraction as a means of wealth has left a negative footprint on the environment. Moving forward, space exploration should be treated with the wisdom of the past in order to prevent similar outcomes. 

Space exploration: moving forward with caution, more human space, human heart for the space resource extraction. Space is like our backup and should foster elements of ethics and co-creation with openness. Join the podcast: Hub Culture - The Chronicle Discussions, Episode 6: How Do We Shape The New Space Race? and blast off to Space Trash!