The space surrounding our planet is full of opportunities and resources. Ranging from a hundred to a few thousand kilometers around Earth, our space-neighborhood offers an excellent vantage point to the universe, and a great opportunity to push the frontiers of science and knowledge. Manned missions advance research on human biology, health, and life in microgravity conditions. Satellite technologies gather essential data to better understand and manage our home planet by monitoring Earthâ€™s environmental changes. Extraordinary developments in telecommunications and navigation are now indispensable to everyday life, and we cannot underestimate the emerging industry of space-tourism or the boom in projects to explore more distant planets such as Mars.
But space also means risk. What is the real threat of meteorites? How much debris â€” from old rocket stages to mere flakes of paint â€” has been left there since space exploration began? How serious is this problem today? What is the risk of solar flares and particle bursts? How does our own Sun influence our climate? And what about the danger of cosmic radiation for humans and devices stationed beyond our atmosphere?
By tackling a wide range of topics, this book aims to give a comprehensive overview of the opportunities and hazards in our immediate space environment. It also exposes the challenges that governments, space agencies, private companies, and human communities have to face in order to manage space together to create long-term and safe access to it, while protecting life on Earth.