Scientists call for an international legal agreement to ensure the sustainable development of space

NEW DELHI: Scientists calls for a legally binding treaty to avoid irreparable damage to Earth’s orbit, given the pace of expansion of the global space industry.
Although satellite technology has been used to provide a wide range of social and environmental benefits, there are fears that the industry’s projected growth will render large portions of Earth’s orbit unusable.
With the number of satellites in orbit expected to increase from 9,000 today to more than 60,000 by 2030, estimates suggest there are more than 100 trillion unobserved old satellites orbiting the planet.
The international collaboration of experts in fields including satellite technology and ocean plastic pollution said it highlighted the urgent need for global consensus on how to manage Earth’s orbit.
They expressed their concerns in the magazine Science.
While they acknowledged that a number of industries and countries are beginning to focus on satellite sustainability, they said this should be done to include any country that plans to use Earth orbit.
Any agreement should include measures to implement producer and user responsibility for satellites and debris from launch, he added.
Commercial costs must also be considered when considering ways to encourage reporting. Such reasoning is in line with current proposals to end ocean plastic pollution as countries begin negotiations on a global agreement on plastics, they said.
Unless immediate action is taken, large swaths of our planet’s immediate vicinity are at risk of the same fate as the High Seas, where mismanagement has led to overfishing, habitat destruction, deep-sea mining and plastic pollution, experts say.
“Plastic pollution and many other issues facing our oceans are now receiving global attention.
“However, joint activities have been limited and implementation has been slow.
“Now we are faced with a similar situation with the accumulation of space debris. By learning from the high seas, we can avoid those mistakes and work together to prevent the tragedy of the commons in space.
“Without a global agreement, we could find ourselves in this way,” said Imogen Napper, lead researcher of the study at the University of Plymouth, UK.
“Replicating the United Nations’ new ocean initiative, reducing low-Earth orbit pollution will enable continued space exploration, satellite continuity and the growth of life-changing space technologies,” said Kimberly Miner, Scientist At NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, USA.
“Satellites are very important to the health, economy, security of our people and the Earth itself.
“However, using space to benefit people and the planet is dangerous.
“By comparing how we treat our oceans, we can be proactive before we harm the use of space for future generations. Humanity must accept responsibility for our behavior in space now, not later.
“I urge all leaders to take note, recognize the importance of this next step and be held accountable together,” said Melissa Quinn, Head of Spaceport Cornwall, UK.
“I have spent most of my career collecting plastic debris in the marine environment; the damage it causes and possible solutions. It is clear that most of the pollution we see today is preventable.
“We were acutely aware of the problem of plastic pollution ten years ago, and if we had acted then, the amount of plastic in our oceans could have been half of what it is today.
Professor Richard Thompson said: “Going forward we need to take a more proactive stance to help save the future of our planet. We can learn a lot from the mistakes made in our oceans when it comes to the accumulation of debris in space.” OBE, Head of International Marine Debris Research, University of Plymouth.

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