September 14, 2022
Former Deputy Assistant to the President and Executive Secretary, National Space Council
As the United States continues to expand its space exploration programs, experts are finding new ways to defend and secure our world through commercial space capabilities.
At the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Aerospace Summit, leaders from the space and aviation sectors joined together to discuss future innovations and obstacles within these industries. In a Day 1 panel, Scott Pace, former executive director of the President’s National Space Council, spoke with Roy Azevedo, president of Raytheon Intelligence and Space, and Alexander MacDonald, chief economist at NASA, about the future of technological research and the advancements driving space exploration. These technologies, many of which are still in development, are poised to impact national security, sustainability, and life on Earth in the future.
To Maintain Security in Space, the U.S. Warrant Support in the United Nations
Since the 1960s, the U.S. has recognized the security component of space exploration.
“When the U.S. went to the moon the first time, there was a famous memo … that laid out that there was actually no military purpose for going to the moon,” MacDonald said. “However, there was an important national security purpose in using the really challenging signal of going to the moon, of taking someone to the moon in return to the earth, [and] using that as a signal to the world of the capacity of the United States … and it very much served that purpose.”
MacDonald added that President Johnson used that commitment to push forward the original Outer Space Treaty that announced that the U.S. wouldn’t situate nuclear weapons in Earth’s orbit and stressed our commitment to the peaceful uses of outer space exploration.
“Today, obviously with the Artemis program, we are returning to the moon for some similar reasons,” MacDonald said.
“We recognize that right now, in order to maintain our security in a more general sense in Earth’s orbit, we need to maintain it as a place of rules, of behavior, [and] of norms,” he said. “In that regard, I think the support of the U.S. by the UN for a resolution around ASAT tests is incredibly important because that's a commitment to a peaceful, lower orbit environment, which we all know is needed for business.”
Space Capabilities And Technologies Helping Detect and Address Climate Change
Azevedo noted that when we talk about national security, most people assume it corresponds to defense initiatives. However, it also encompasses “what we contribute from Earth observation programs in terms of … understanding the weather patterns and making that data available to many parties so that we can continue to learn.”
“From there, we've got everything with SmallSats that are out there measuring methane in the environment,” Azevedo said. “We do have the instruments, but that data's available to many folks, including academia, so that we can continue to learn from what we observe.”
Commercial space capabilities can address additional national security issues, including weather prevention, rising sea levels, flooding, early fire detection, wildfire ignition detection, and other climate-change challenges.
“We're in for some significant climate challenges in our future,” MacDonald said. “One of the things that space capabilities have to offer the world is really a deep understanding through these types of instruments of the challenges that we have from fires, from floods, from heat, from sea level rise.”
From the Series