My Date with Space Sustainability – From a Scientific Symposium to a Royal Engagement


July 6th, 2023



Written by

Marta Mas i Serra

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by Steve Spittle, CTO

Allow me to take you through a remarkable day that brought together Earth, space, sustainability, and royalty in a most impressive event.

I began my day at the prestigious Royal Astronomical Society, where I was honoured to attend the Global Leaders on Space Sustainability Symposium. The Earth and Space Sustainability Initiative (ESSI) was the focus of the day’s events.

ESSI is a pivotal development for the space community. Signed by over 120 space organisations globally, it received a royal endorsement from King Charles III himself.

The ESSI involves the creation of a set of industry-led space sustainability principles and has also garnered support from governments. Drawing inspiration from terrestrial Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) values, ESSI applies these principles to the entire space ecosystem. By doing so, it ensures that space activities are conducted responsibly, while considering their environmental and social impacts. In essence, ESSI seeks to guarantee that all of humanity can continue to use outer space for peaceful purposes and socio-economic benefits, now and in the future.

Prior to the official start of the symposium a small group of us took place in a round table discussion, with prominent figures from the UK Space sector, corporate investors, leading researchers, and representatives from insurance companies. The bound signatures were ceremoniously presented to Science Minister George Freeman at the beginning of the meeting.

George Freeman initiated the meeting by highlighting the importance of space sustainability for the UK and its significance on the global stage. Subsequently, Joanne Wheeler, a driving force behind ESSI, presented the process and major findings, with contributors including myself providing insights into why we support and contribute to ESSI. My presentation stressed that the space ecosystem must continually evaluate its impacts, from tracking critical minerals in satellites to assessing the environmental and social repercussions of spaceports.

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This symposium was spellbound by Chris Hadfield’s keynote speech, a former astronaut and commander of the International Space Station. His insightful message is that the responsibility for the sustainability of space is a shared one, and we all must play our part.

After the symposium, delegates were escorted in coaches to Buckingham Palace. As we entered, we were greeted by onlookers who took videos, perhaps curious about the event taking place inside the esteemed palace.

Once inside, we were led to an exquisite grand hall adorned with marble pillars and intricate ceiling carvings. Windows opened to a breathtaking view of the Buckingham Palace gardens.

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His Majesty King Charles III made his entry, introduced by Chris Hadfield. The King gave a brief speech before unveiling the Astra Carta. This document is monumental in its ambitious roadmap for the private sector to lead in sustainable practices across global space-related industries, with a focus on sustainability at the heart of space activity.

I have to note that during the unveiling, my view was obscured by, what better than, Brian May’s iconic hair. Yes, Brian May from Queen. It was a light-hearted moment that briefly took me out of the momentous nature of the event.

His Majesty proceeded to engage with the delegates, and I was fortunate to have a brief exchange with him regarding sustainability, a topic he is deeply passionate about.

As the conference ended, I had the opportunity to speak with representatives from space companies, national institutions such as NASA and JAXA, astronauts including the UK’s Tim Peake, and Brian May.

This was an astounding event, with every participant deeply engaged in the necessity for space sustainability.

I left Buckingham Palace reflecting on the day’s events, and it filled me with hope and resolve. I am extremely grateful and proud to be a part of such a forward-thinking community and to contribute to this momentous movement.

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Our next steps are to continue driving the Earth and Space Sustainability Initiative forward, refining the principles and leading to the creation of standards.

Thank you for joining me on this journey.

#EarthAndSpaceSustainabilityInitiative #KingCharlesIII #AstraCarta #Sustainability