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"Space is for everyone" is a popular saying, but it rarely holds true — partly because space is expensive, and partly because certain countries have decades of a head start and established procedures to rely on.
Rethinking those established procedures, however, could address not just inequity, but other looming challenges in space exploration as well. That's the argument that powers the research of Danielle Wood, who runs a program at MIT's Media Lab, which focuses on how to do things in space that further equity and justice on Earth.
Ambivalence - Space - Race - Landscape - Nationalism
Much of that ambivalence stems from the space race, which played out against a geopolitical landscape of intense nationalism that used space as a power play — both through the hard power of aiding weapons research and the soft power of seeking to impress newly independent former colonies. America's early spaceflight work was also deeply rooted in military goals, and our first rockets were designed and built by engineers recruited from Nazi Germany after World War II.
While Wood appreciates the importance of physical security, she said it's past time to shift the goals of space so that projects align more closely with other values humans hold, like justice — which she defines as ensuring everyone can access space and use its technology to meet local goals. She focuses her work around the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals, a set of 17 global priorities created by the U.N. Development Program. Sample goals include ending hunger, ensuring access to clean water and addressing climate change and its effects.
Space - Technology - Issues - Example - Data
Traditional space technology does sometimes address these issues. For example, satellite data can inform agricultural practices, for example, and a whole fleet of satellites keep an eye on climate indicators. But they do so within the confines of the same satellite design and rocket technology that underpins all...
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