What Does Sustainability Mean in Space?

NASA is developing a sustainability strategy to clean up space debris and plan for the future as near-earth orbit becomes more cluttered.

1 minute read

May 8, 2024, 8:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Rendering of many satellites in near-earth orbit with earth visible behind them.

Framestock / Adobe Stock

NASA is taking action to clean up the growing amount of space debris littering the Earth’s orbit, reports Jessica Hullinger in Fast Company. 

“In a move to protect space for the years to come, NASA recently released its new ‘Space Sustainability Strategy’ and plans to hire a director of space sustainability whose job it will be to put the strategy into effect across the agency.” The new director will be tasked with coordinating sustainability efforts across the agency. 

But space is an unnatural environment that humans aren’t really supposed to inhabit, so the measures of sustainability are less obvious. If space is a lifeless vacuum, what is it that we want to protect and prioritize when operating there? The financial investments of space startups? The integrity of existing spacecraft? The usability of specific orbits? The lives of astronauts? The view of the night sky? All of the above? How do we measure these things, and how do they influence one another?

NASA is soliciting research and analysis from universities and research organizations to help answer these questions and guide their plans. “As on Earth, convincing everyone that space cannot be humanity’s dumping ground requires a clear and sustained messaging shift.”

Thursday, May 2, 2024 in Fast Company

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