One Cool Thing: Rewriting the Stars In the Name of Equity and Justice

The Star Formerly Known As Eskimo Nebula       Photo: NASA

NASA announced this week that it would be changing the nicknames of any celestial bodies that are inappropriate such as “Eskimo Nebula” and “Siamese Twins Galaxy,” for example.  CNN reported on the decision by the agency to re-examine its use of phrases for planets, galaxies, and other cosmic objects “as part of its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion,” and that it will “use only the official, International Astronomical Union designations in cases where nicknames are inappropriate.” Stephen Shih, associate administrator for Diversity and Equal Opportunity at NASAsaid, “Science depends on diverse contributions, and benefits everyone, so this means we must make it inclusive.” We could not agree more.  The stars should be a wonder to everyone.

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Scientists Test Solar Panel that Beams Power to Earth from Space

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Pentagon scientists have successfully tested a small solar panel that, when launched into space, can collect solar power and beam it to any place on earth. The special panel is called a Photovoltaic Radiofrequency Antenna Module (PRAM) and was launched last May attached to a drone that circles the earth once every 90 minutes. If scaled up, scientists say that these orbital solar panels could work 24/7 and collect more sunlight than those on earth, and provide power to remote areas of the globe and major power grids alike.

Why This Matters: Along with hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, and other natural disasters, climate change will also be increasing power outages. This new technology could play a role in reducing power outages and creating a globally connected power grid.

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First All-Civilian Private Space Flight to Launch This Year

First All-Civilian Private Space Flight to Launch This Year

On Monday, SpaceX announced that it would launch the first all-civilian crew to space this year, with no training or assistance from NASA or another government agency.  Leading the four-person mission will be billionaire Jared Isaacman, an experienced pilot and CEO of e-commerce company Shift4.

Why this Matters: This publicity stunt is meant to suggest that the goal of space tourism — to bring ordinary citizens to outer space — is nearer than we think.

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As Private Companies Near Space Travel and Exploitation, New Legal Questions Arise

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To many companies, space is the new “Wild West,” a “final frontier”  of resources to be exploited for profit. To avoid a “land rush” in space, nations and space companies will need to agree on what they can claim to own or even begin to extract from outer space before their competitors beat them to it. 

Why this Matters:  Tesla and Amazon are working to make space travel and resource extraction for private citizens and companies possible.

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