Natalie Panek's satellite infrastructure talk begins with a simple point. It's a fact that's at once self-evident and jarring: nearly all of humanity's earthly technology is either directly or indirectly reliant on satellites orbiting through space.
Whether in communications, navigation, and weather technology, or in less obvious fields like agriculture and the financial and energy markets, satellites are essential for the function of modern society. But despite this ineluctable importance (and despite humanity's post-industrial lesson in ecology,) humans continue to shoot satellites into space with inadequate plans for disposing of them, leaving growing heaps of space junk.
When satellites either break down or simply finish their assigned mission, most companies and organizations opt to leave them in orbit rather than spending the resources to retrieve them. This doesn't hurt the environment per se -- rather, the problem is that these dead or decommissioned satellite take up valuable room in orbit for future satellites. The problem is only compounded by the fact that there are no international regulations for cleaning up space debris.
Keeping Outer Space Clean
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Having Fun with Sustainability
Satellites for Good
Reinventing Satellite Photography
Discovering Planetary Life
The Future of Space Exploration