In the past decade, humanity has seen the birth and expansion of a commercial space sector with new, private players tackling technological challenges — from space launches to communications and satellite imagery of Earth. Last year, the global space industry launched more than 2,660 satellites into orbit, and into space, interplanetary probes, landers, and more. In the United States, SpaceX was responsible for about 90% of these launches. In parallel with this development, more than 70 countries are demonstrating expanding space capabilities. It reaffirms the general consensus and understanding that humanity will continue to rely on space activities to improve the human experience. These developments create a new landscape of both competition and collaboration for scientists, presenting both challenges and opportunities.

In an increasingly fragmented world, the scientific community stands as an example of successful international cooperation and diplomacy. Science is based on a long tradition of knowledge exchange that often transcends political boundaries for the benefit of all humanity. Cost-effective, commercial space technologies can enable new research or open up new possibilities for the scientific community by reducing the cost of research. At the same time, international partnerships can further broaden engagement, diversity, and cooperation in science and space exploration. While this sounds like a “win-win” scenario, the interest of the scientific community is to share data and analysis openly. Different principles and theories present potential areas of conflict. As governments and private institutions boldly fund new projects, leaders, academics, and legal experts are considering both the big implications as well as the potential.

High stakes leadership and the landing on Mars

“When every mission is a first for humanity, the stakes are high,” says Thomas Zerbuchen, who led 54 missions as the longest-serving associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. of “When the clock is ticking, and the world is watching, a leader’s most powerful asset is a highly diverse team,” he says. In this context, diversity can emerge from international and commercial partnerships, and new missions can be born. In fact, an estimated two-thirds of science missions have international partnerships.

Now, as director of ETH Zurich Space in Switzerland, Zurbuchen reflects on the value of partnerships as a leadership tool. He uses examples from recent international missions, such as Mars InSight, to discuss how diversity creates opportunities for new and different ideas to come forward — even if some ideas pose a risk. . He also addresses some of the challenges posed by partnerships. For example, some companies and countries prefer not to share their scientific data collected in space, making reproducibility challenging for scientific analysis.

Cross-Border Diffusion — Learning from Lightning on Venus

“Scientific theories behave like space plasma,” says David Malaspina, a space plasma physicist at the University of Colorado, Boulder. “When they encounter a border, they find a way to cross.” Malaspina describes international academic collaboration as an important engine of discovery and attributes the language of science to fostering a sense of awe and wonder for the universe across cultures. In science, and in plasmas, the most interesting physics happens at boundaries.

Malaspina engages in international and ethnically diverse research teams, including a team building a sounding rocket to explore the interface between Earth and space. He is also a member of the team that uses data from the Parker Solar Probe mission to explore Venus, trying to understand the importance of the planet’s magnetic field for the habitability of Earth-like planets. He discusses how teams that incorporate diverse perspectives create new opportunities for scientific progress.

Why Protect Bootprints on the Moon?

Unlike ancient footprints, cave drawings and stone age tools found here on Earth, the first signs of human activity on the moon, including Neil Armstrong’s bootprint, are not protected under any existing laws or regulations. Michelle Hanlon, a space lawyer and executive director of the Center for Air and Space Law at the University of Mississippi School of Law, thinks it’s a hoax.

Hanlon explains why protecting historic sites on the Moon and elsewhere in space not only preserves the past, but also provides an important foundation for the future. Hanlon explores the gaps in space law and, in particular, she asks, “What space law imposes on scientific and commercial activities, as well as the various obligations imposed on public and private actors.” Hanlon anticipates that space law, ethics, policy, and treaties will increasingly take a higher strategic priority as nations seek to avoid potential conflicts.