Global space economy - the next frontier

About the event

‘How should humanity handle this potential access to ubiquity and abundance, and do it without having a fight?’

The final frontier is closer than we think, promising clean space-based solar power, room for zero-gravity manufacturing and an abundance of minerals - to say nothing of the possibility of virtually unlimited, powerful internet connections and navigation systems, and zero-gravity manufacturing.

They sound like science-fiction dreams, but can we make them a reality, bearing in mind historic difficulties in delivering major programmes on earth, let alone in orbit? Can we avoid creating the same negative externalities in space as we have on the ground? And can we sidestep replaying our earthbound political tensions on the moon and Mars?

In an Oxford Smart Space discussion, hosted by Daniel Armanios, BT Professor and Chair of Major Programme Management, Pippa Malmgren and Benn Lawson, Associate Professor of Operations Management, discuss the challenges and tensions that will have to be resolved if humanity is to reap the benefits of space. 

Management of abundance 

Our structures and economies on Earth developed to manage scarcities. Space could yield an abundance of many resources that have historically been limited, revolutionising concepts of value and prompting a radical rethinking of how we manage life on Earth.

Avoiding conflict 

Competition and conflict on Earth is already being replicated in space, with the superpowers racing for control of the ‘commanding heights’ and, for example, Russia’s destruction of one of its own satellites producing debris in orbit that could damage other satellites. We have not established agreed rules or internationally accepted arbitrators.

Navigating the commons 

On Earth there is a distinction between sovereign waters and international waters. In a similar vein there need to be conversations about how we share space: how we ensure that the benefits are equally distributed, how we avoid the equivalent of a large oil spill or destruction of a reef and how we make sure we clean up after ourselves.

Watch a video of the event.

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