Space for All

"Space for All" is an initiative that addresses current and arising issues in space. We foster global communication, cooperation, and spread awareness on space issues surrounding space sustainability and space governance. Our goal is to ensure the sustainable usage of outer space.

Corvin Illgner
Maastricht University
MSc Sustainability Science, Policy and Society

Over het initiatief / About the initiative

Space for All

In welke fase zit jouw initiatief? / In what stage is your initiative?

Uitgewerkt conceptfase

Heb je jouw initiatief al gevalideerd? / Did you validate your initiative?

It is not yet legally recognised or validated. This is part of our next step. However, we have many statements of approval and support from experts that validate our cause. We have conducted hundreds of interviews where experts recognise space issues and state that more action is needed.

Meer informatie over jouw initiatief / More info about your initiative

On the fourth of October 1957, humanity managed the first successful orbital launch of the Sputnik 1, the very first satellite. This was the start of a new era, the era of space exploration. That was about 63 years ago. In the meantime, humanity ventured on the moon, sent multiple probes to other bodies of the solar system, found new possible habitable exo-planets within our universe, and is planning the colonisation of Mars. We utilise space for almost every industrial sector from agriculture to banking and it is vital to our current standard of living. On top of that, space travel and space exploration have become a major point of interest, not only for governmental agencies but also for commercial use. Privately-owned space businesses realised the applications of space for revenue, which resulted in cheaper costs for launch systems and a faster development regarding space travel. The public and private interest in space will only continue to rise and with it its impact. Therefore, awareness for the most pressing issues needs to spread in order to protect humanity and the system we are a part of.

Political Issues

There are currently five international treaties and five principles on activity in space. These deal with issues that can arise, such as arms control, liability for damage caused by space objects and more. The last of these treaties went into force in 1984, and the last principle was added in 1996. This is long ago, considering the speed of technological advancement and the increased access to and interest in space. When the rules and regulations are not updated, serious problems can arise. An example is the military use of space, which could pose a serious threat in the future. Since military confrontation in outer space has already happened, the outbreak of a “space war” in the future seems likely. There is an urgent need to update international rules to be able to govern this.

Economic Issues

Critics agree that the outer space treaties and principles are a good foundation for international space law, however, it does not make a reference to commercial space activities, presumably because this was not foreseen in 1967. This means new regulations need to cover the commercial use of space, as the current rules were set in motion at a time when governments were the only competitors in space exploration. Topics ranging from regulated asteroid or planetary mining, space manufacturing, traffic control, orbit congestion, (debris) property rights, and space tourism need to find their way onto the UN agenda to be discussed and regulated. Otherwise, businesses’ frontiers have the potential to dive deep into an unregulated sector, which could be devastating for future space-related projects and generations.

Environmental Issues

The economic aspect of space exploration is closely interlinked with the environmental issues that arise. The unsustainable use of planetary and asteroid mining could have huge implications for us. Our population is growing, which means more raw materials are required to maintain the current living standards. To prevent over-exploiting planet Earth even more than we are already doing, mining materials from celestial bodies will quickly become reality. International law is still ambiguous about private companies’ involvement. This makes it unclear whose responsibility it is to care for our solar system. This is also the case for space waste, another environmental implication. At this moment, more than 130 million objects are orbiting planet earth – most of which are defined as space debris. This poses a danger to future exploration missions as most of these objects are too small to be registered. There is a lot of ambiguity about who is responsible for clearing up the mess. We should always protect and restore the integrity of all the ecological systems we encounter. By only protecting our own planet, we possibly harm the environment of others.

Our initiative

The need for action is now, otherwise, humanity will face problems in the future that we might not be prepared for. The political, economic, and environmental issues are all interdependent and lead to a common problem that is brought about by a lack of future-oriented thinking. This is very difficult to solve since not everyone recognises the severity of the issues listed before. Space is a common-pool resource. It does not belong to anyone, so we need to find a collaborative way on how to share its benefits, and how to govern action.

There are already many different parties talking about outer space and the need for its use to be discussed on a higher, intergovernmental level. Though, as of this moment, every party is addressing it individually and there is a clear lack of interaction and common movement. This is what we want to change. The United Nations Sustainable Development Agenda is a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. With the inclusion of space in this agenda by 2030, we want to create this common movement. A sustainable future is impossible without it. We explained why space deserves a place on the global agenda. Now it is time for action.

What did we do?

Our initiative started out with the goal of implementing an 18th United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) in its current framework. Though, we were informed that this endeavour is futile as the SDG Agenda is closed. This is why we shifted our efforts into fostering a community, cooperation, and collaboration on space issues. Our new goal is the implementation of space in the new 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda by the UN. We have participated in the UN75 Dialogue, where we conducted a webinar with experts for more than 200 attendees to discuss space issues and the implementation of space in the global agenda. We have also set up a LinkedIn group for information exchange and cooperation. this group has currently over 400 members and is steadily growing. Further, our team members are engaged in scientific research for different space-related issues to expand our knowledge and expedite our efforts.

Wat zijn jouw volgende stappen om het verder te ontwikkelen? / What are your next steps to develop the initiative?

The first step on our agenda is legal recognition and the development of a concrete non-profit business plan. This plan encompasses our actions, our mission and value statements, and ideas to generate funding. Our goal is clear: to ensure the sustainable use of outer space in the next decade. Though, the path towards that goal is still a bit blurry.

Meanwhile, our efforts in networking and connecting are continuing. We want to create a knowledgeable nexus of experts that can aid, participate, exchange, and help concrete developments proposed by us in regard to the most urgent issues.

We want to increase our research efforts to identify critical action points. These action points will then be written down in form of proposals which are then sent to the UN for approval. Once our initiative grows, we also want to apply for recognition by the UN. This will allow our work to be properly processed and potentially proposed to the UN General Assembly.

We have plans to take part in courses that will build knowledge and capacity for lobbying work. This way we can send representatives to important meetings that will create political awareness of these issues.

There are a lot of visions, but concrete steps on how to achieve these are still lacking. We are working on these but we are lacking knowledge. For this, we need your support and your help so that we can keep the benefits of space for future generations.

Wat heb je nodig om (nog meer) impact te maken met dit initiatief? / What do you need to make (more) impact with this initiative?

The most important thing is time, money, and recognition. All our members are full-time students with side jobs, which makes it very difficult to focus efforts on this initiative. We are all building up our profiles, with some pursuing a PhD to work further on solutions to issues on outer space. If we would receive funding, we would be allowed to drastically increase our workload on our research and outreach efforts. This would help to gain recognition and connect more experts. With the nexus of experts and a clear plan, we can apply for recognition at the UN, create working groups, and connect work from different organisations and initiatives to propose holistic documents to the UN and their sub-committees.

To achieve these steps, we are aware that we need more knowledge on non-profit business plan development and funding proposals.