As Above, So Below: Space And Sustainability
- 22 November 2021
- Lendlease Podium
AS ABOVE, SO BELOW: SPACE AND SUSTAINABILITY
Space is not just the final frontier. It represents the nervous system for planet Earth, explains Dr. Tim Parsons, NSW Node Coordinator for SmartSat CRC. “It gives us an incredible oversight on what's going on, down on earth and what planetary boundaries we need to worry about and that data is more essential than ever in these troubled times.”
Dr. Parsons is referring to the burgeoning AUD$420 billion industry that encompasses not only space R&D and exploration but massive-scale sensor data capture, processing and monitoring for many Earth-bound industry sectors, occurring via burgeoning constellations of Earth Observations satellites being launched into Low Earth Orbit. “It’s vital our decisions are being made based on facts, truths that have been recorded, measured, validated and re-recorded. In the building sector there is the practice of always ‘measure twice, cut once’. It's going to be the same in measuring our impacts on the Earth and space is critical to doing that,” he tells the Autonomous21 attendees.
Saber Astronautics, CEO, Dr. Jason Held, forecasts that that the value of the space market will be tripling in eight years, and the current revolution that is happening in space industry development will be paramount to the future of how we maintain and care for the earth’s environment and the sustainability for humanity.
“What happens in space affects us here on Earth. The answer to whether there's life in the universe is out there, the answer to climate change is out there. The task of fixing things up there directly affects us here, to be a part of the future of humanity we need to be a part of space. We're taking over the low earth orbit and manufacturing there and we're going further out and building the ideas that were considered science fiction five years ago.”
Watch full session: How the Space Race is Shaping New Cities
Significantly, Dr. Held points out that the data that is being harvested in futurist developments has a lot of cross-over between the space industry and clean tech.“Take the need to design a home that survives the rigors of the Moon and Mars, it needs to be ecologically sound and sustaining which are all the properties we need for a happier, healthier life here on earth.”
Dr. Parsons adds that space is already presenting a mirror to Earth, with the vantage point of Earth orbit being the ultimate high ground from which to measure our planet. “As much as space is about health and human ability to survive in different environments, it's even more about data. It's about advanced technologies and systems engineering. Thanks to all of the different innovations that we're seeing in software, the cost of doing things in space and the cost of running experiments in space, and connecting to things that are telling us more about the world, have dropped exponentially over the past decade.”
Dr. Parson’s colleagues at SmartSat CRC are currently developing significant space projects that are re-defining the way we protect and maintain our earthly resources will help that can only come from the skies.
A key sustainability-from-space project, AquaWatch, is using space-based sensors to get a better understanding of how the world's freshwater resources move through different river systems and lake systems. The hyperspectral mapping technology being developed can look deep into things like water quality and provide alerts when there are problems, like blooms of algae or silting or even floods.
“With Australia being a very arid country, it’s actually remarkable we fundamentally don’t understand how fresh water moves through our water systems, our rivers and lakes. And that affects the quality of our public policy-making, affecting things like water pricing, and if the data is not something that's really kind of calibrated and validated and trusted, then the policy levers break.”
Another project, I-in-the-Sky, is an emergency detection solution that detects events like bush fires, floods or lightning strikes with a monitoring system that allows alerts to go out in the first few minutes of being triggered for immediate deployment of an aviation or ground asset before it actually gets out of control.
“Both projects, AquaWatch and I-in-the-Sky, involve putting together a whole suite of different experiments, instruments, software, and hardware, getting them in space, and then learning how we can actually use those to deliver valuable services to folks on the ground, and of course along the way we have to involve the actual technology that's inside the spacecraft themselves, and we have to also evolve the entire value chain of how to get that data and actual intelligence down from space,” he explained.
Austrade’s Trade and Investment Commissioner and Deputy Consul General, based in San Francisco, Odette Hampton, sees clear interlinking between the projects being deployed in space and addressing climate change challenges specifically to the US and Australia.
“It's incredibly important with climate change, that everyone needs be aware of where their assets are and how they're going to be impacted, including their supply chains by climate changes that will be happening within the next few years,” she warns.
Hampton highlights the Office of Planetary Observations in Melbourne, which uses satellite data to provide environmental analytics for city planning and uses Digital Twin technology for development forecasts. “You can actually see a city, manage the temperature, build green canopies so that you can have town planners build a green city and see how it could function under certain conditions. There's a lot of technology already being used for earth observation and some of the satellites and data that we've got that are just leading the way in how we can address some of these quite challenging issues that we're finding ourselves in at the moment.”
Watch full session: How the Space Race is Shaping New Cities