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.
Learn more: key documents
There have been many articles, videos and blog posts on this topic. The book has lots of links you can follow. There are three key definitive reports:
The SATCON-1 report: based on the results of a conference and collection of working groups set up by the US NOIRLab and American Astronomical Society.
The Dark and Quiet Skies report: from a conference and working group set up by the International Astronomical Union. It deals with light pollution as well the satellite problem.
The JASON report: a report covering the debris problem as well as optical and radio astronomy, written by a US government independent science advisory panel.
There are a number of technical/scientific articles on various aspects (see links in the book), but the one I would recommend for its breadth is this paper by Boley and Myers.
Letter to FCC
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
Amicus Brief for US Court of Appeal
In the April 2021 FCC review, some parties, including another Space Company, Viasat, and an environmental organisation known as the Balance Group, argued that an environmental assessment should be carried out, under standard US NEPA regulations. The FCC declined to do this, arguing, amongst other things, that they had a categorical exclusion. Viasat and the Balance Group launched a legal appeal against the FCC decision. They also launched a “Stay Motion” to stop launches while the appeal was going ahead. The Stay Motion was rejected, but the original appeal expedited. I was asked to write a “Amicus Brief” – a kind of expert witness statement – which I did with the help of Meredith Rawls and Moriba Jah, and many more anonymous contributors. This was submitted on August 13th. It is a public document, so I provide it here for anybody who is interested:
I am quite excited by this, as rather than just arguing specifically about Starlink launches, it makes a very general case in a court of law that we should treat orbital space as part of the environment, a cause for which as some of you will know, Moriba Jah has been envangelising for some time.
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.
There is Facebook Page you can join – Action Against Satellite Pollution. This is a private group but you can of course request to join if you want to follow what is going on.
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. The Royal Astronomical Society is I believe working on a template letter for people to use.
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