A new era of human space activities is unfolding every day before our eyes. An increasing number of nation-states and private sector actors are now capable of deploying a wide array of space technologies to low Earth orbit and beyond. While these developments are opening a host of new opportunities for economic expansion and international strategic cooperation, they also pose a myriad of emerging security and regulatory challenges that will require careful anticipatory diplomacy for risk mitigation. An urgent area that requires sound technical and diplomatic solutions lies in the development of strategies to reduce the proliferation of an ever-increasing constellation of space debris, often referred to as "space junk," from growing at an exponential rate with potentially irreversible effects. Imagine a future in which space missions are increasingly vulnerable to catastrophic collisions with space debris ranging in scale from flecks of paint, nuts, and bolts, to spent rocket components, so frequent that the burgeoning space future of humanity is grounded before it truly begins.
To address these challenges, the DUCIGS/Rethinking Diplomacy Program is excited to welcome Professor Hugh Lewis, Head of the Astronautics Research Group at the University of Southampton to discuss both technical and diplomatic strategies to mitigate the threats posed by space debris to the emerging global space economy. Professor Lewis will be joined in conversation by Professor Laura Newburgh (Assistant Professor of Physics, Yale University), Ambassador W. Robert Pearson (Duke Rethinking Diplomacy Fellow) and Dr. Benjamin L. Schmitt (Duke Rethinking Diplomacy Fellow and Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics), in a timely panel discussion.