“Space exploration plays an important role in the search for lasting solutions”

Tribune. At a time when we are campaigning for the moderation of the use of our planet’s natural resources, Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Galactic, is developing space tourism with serious ecological consequences. It is estimated that, for a single flight of about ten minutes, 80 tonnes of CO equivalent2 are emitted into the atmosphere, i.e. more than six times the amount emitted by a French person in one year.

In addition, there are other less obvious forms of pollution, such as light pollution, to the detriment of space exploration from Earth. If today space already has 20,000 listed objects including 2,000 satellites, Elon Musk’s company SpaceX plans to deploy a constellation of 42,000 minisatellites in low orbit to sell a broadband Internet service accessible to all four corners. of the world.

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An alarming project for astronomers whose observation is hampered by the light pollution generated by these satellites. And this without counting the accumulation of space debris in Earth orbit, a source of pollution and danger, as recently illustrated by the destruction of a satellite by Russia.

A source of technological progress

However, space exploration has allowed the discovery and development of many technological advances. Recycling, water purification, food preservation or even vertical farms are advances which, initially, were developed to live and survive longer in space, then were valued on Earth.

Likewise, meteorological satellites placed in orbit by the aerospace industry have for decades played a fundamental role in the study of climate change and the understanding and preservation of the environment on Earth. This is the case with the Ibuki 2, a Japanese satellite measuring greenhouse gases using ultra-powerful sensors, or the Merlin, a Franco-German satellite scheduled for launch in 2024, which will study atmospheric methane and allow better understand the sources of greenhouse gas emissions.

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The International Space Station (ISS) also plays an important role in the search for lasting solutions. Hundreds of scientific experiments are carried out there each year, some of which are devoted to ecological transition such as Ecopack, which tests new types of reusable, biodegradable or edible packaging.

An ecological awareness

In addition, in 2021, more than 4,500 school classes volunteered to participate in the blob experiment, this single-cell organism with astonishing learning capacities, carried out by Thomas Pesquet in the ISS. A large-scale operation which should make it possible to better understand the global influence of climate change on living beings thanks to the comparison of numerous data on the whole of the territory and to the study of the effect of weightlessness and rays on the blob.

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“Space exploration plays an important role in the search for lasting solutions”