What can we do?
Are we powerless in the face of technological progress, and commercial pressure? I don’t think so. Professional astronomers, astronautics specialists, industry scientists, and others are working hard on technical working groups. Not everybody can help with that, but here are some things everybody can do.
Spread the word. Discuss the issues with your friends. Get them to read the book, follow the links, watch the videos, and join in the discussion in the YouTube comments. Educate yourself so you can argue sensibly.
Sign the petitions. If you are a professional astronomer, you should sign the Astronomers Appeal, set up by Stefano Gallozzi. As a member of the public, it is more appropriate to sign the Losing the night sky appeal at Avaaz.
Write to your local representative, i.e. Member of Parliament, Congress Person etc, letting them know what you think – for example that space should be treated as part of the natural environment, or that you are worried we will end up with space advertising, or whatever. Politicians (in most countries…) take letters from citizens very seriously. They assume that for every person that writes, another thousand feel the same way.
Friends of Space
There is a growing movement towards Space Environmentalism – the idea that we should consider space as a global commons, and a finite resource to be protected, like the oceans or the atmosphere, and that such environmental issues should be part of the approval process for launches, along with spectrum allocation. Many of the participants in our live event feel that for this to happen, we need a campaigning organisation to gather public support and apply pressure – something like a Greenpeace for Space, or a Friends of Space. This does not yet exist, but it may soon get formed – watch this space.
An open letter
In April 2021, as part of the FCC review of the SpaceX proposal to modify the orbits of their initial fleet of 4400 Starlink satellites, I submitted a letter, arguing that approval should be indefinitely deferred. This was a drop in the ocean of course, but it’s as close as I have to a personal manifest, so I offer it up to you as an open letter. The key points are:
- Megaconstellations are bad for
– astronomical science,
– the public right to the sky, and
– the safe sustainability of commercial activity in space
- Technical and legal review processes are underway
– wait for the results !
– this is new and difficult
- The internet is too important to allow chaos
– we already have an agreed shared global software infrastructure
– we should also aim at an agreed shared global physical infrastructure
Global internet is great, but it doesn’t need to be done this way
No we can’t just fix the streaks in software
Space is getting dangerously crowded