Our Fragile Space: Protecting the Near-Space Environment
An exhibition and science communication project by Max Alexander, FRAS. Throughout the bluedot weekend.
Plus, panel featuring Libby Jackson and Max Alexander – Star Pavilion, Saturday
With the exponential growth of satellites orbiting just a few hundred kilometres above our heads, I wanted to make a contribution to the understanding of what is happening in the near-space environment, including the impact on optical and radio astronomy, and the loss of the night sky for humanity. It also became apparent to me that I needed to tell the wider story of how space is intertwined into our everyday lives and society. Much of modern life is inextricably governed by its use and all the unnoticed benefits we gain are taken for granted. I set out to highlight the measures that are being taken to protect this fragile environment, including solutions, mitigation and the emerging field of space sustainability, to show the whole picture in one photography-led project.
A year in the making, my photography for Our Fragile Space took me to the top of volcanoes in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, clean rooms across Europe, mega-constellation launches on both coasts of the United States within a few days of each other, and a farm in England. It also took me on a journey through the space sector: space agencies, government, military, regulation, insurance market, astronomy and space sustainability enterprises.
Our Fragile Space takes a human perspective, from the ground looking up, connecting the Earth to the near-space environment. I chose this everyday approach to make the issues more tangible because space debris is just up there, part of Earth’s environment.
Human activity over hundreds of years has led to global changes on the land, in the oceans, with plastic in particular, in the atmosphere, leading to climate change – and now space with space debris. We are only 65 years into the Space Age so we have an opportunity to not repeat the same behaviour. The sustainability imperative is becoming embedded within us; protecting the near-space environment is in everyone’s interests.