Space exploration “covers the broad range of technologies associated with enabling successful activities in space, from mission operations to in-situ resource utilization” (NASA, 2020) and, for the purposes of this website, exploration and research of the solar system, including human spaceflight, and the data acquired through such efforts. A study by André et al. (2021) found that space exploration is relevant to and contributes towards SDG 13: Climate Action, and a separate report by the International Space Exploration Coordination Group (2013) identifies three categories of benefits from space exploration.
Innovation: As scientific research and development are conducted over the course of space exploration, technologies developed in the process assist in responding to and addressing climate change. For example, water processing technology on the International Space Station has been used on Earth in places with scarce access to clean water. Research and development into solar panels for satellites contribute to boosting the efficiency of solar cells and the development and deployment of solar panel farms on Earth.
Culture and inspiration: Seeing planet Earth from space, people often refer to the Overview Effect – a change in cognitive perception of Earth as a rocky ball adrift around the Sun and a newfound appreciation for its wonders. The famous Earthrise image captured by NASA’s Apollo 8 mission in 1968 boosted the environmental movement. Pictures from space are the basis for any climate understanding and provide an understanding of the fragility of Earth. Space exploration inspires the next generation of scientists, engineers, and social scientists.
New means to address global challenges: Space exploration as a global endeavour builds trust and facilitates diplomacy between space agencies, nations, and regions. This creates new opportunities for addressing global challenges. For example, NASA and the European Space Agency signed a statement of intent in 2021 to work together on climate action [ESA, 2021a); a China-France oceanography satellite was jointly developed to model and tackle climate change (CGTN, 2023); and TRUTHS is a climate focused satellite mission led by the UK Space Agency in partnership with several European states and the European Space Agency (ESA, 2021b).
CGTN. (2023). UN-China Space Workshop: China-France satellite project providing data on tackling climate change. Available at: https://news.cgtn.com/news/2022-11-23/VHJhbnNjcmlwdDY5NjYx/index.html. Access date: 12 May, 2023.
ESA. (2021a). ESA and NASA join forces to understand climate change. Available at: https://www.esa.int/Applications/Observing_the_Earth/ESA_and_NASA_join_forces_to_understand_climate_change. Access date: 12 May, 2023.
ESA. (2021b). TRUTHS shapes up. Available at: https://www.esa.int/Applications/Observing_the_Earth/TRUTHS/TRUTHS_shapes_up. Access date: 12 May, 2023.
NASA. (2013). Benefits Stemming from Space Exploration. Available at: https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/files/Benefits-Stemming-from-Space-Exploration-2013-TAGGED.pdf. Access date: 27 March, 2023.
NASA. (2020). Technology taxonomy. Available: https://techport.nasa.gov/view/taxonomy. Access date: 12 May, 2023.