Strauss Center News

Updates from the Strauss Center and our affiliated distinguished scholars and fellows


SSS Lead Discusses Mars, Space Debris, Exclusivity in the Space Community, and More

Sep 1, 2020 |

In a recent SpaceWatch.Global podcastProfessor Moriba Jah, Associate Professor of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics at the Cockrell School of Engineering, where he holds the Mrs. Pearlie Dashiell Henderson Centennial Fellowship in Engineering, and Lead of the Space Security and Safety Program at the Strauss Center, discussed a host of issues related to his expertise and research. He began by noting the value of doing what is right in space, not just what is legal, and underscored the importance of looking to the practices of indigenous peoples who have taken on a role of custodianship and stewardship towards the environment. He also discussed Elon Musk’s various claims regarding his Mars aspirations, which Dr. Jah regards mostly and just talk, but he recognizes the importance of Elon Musk as a visionary (who perhaps gets a bit too much credit.) Dr. Jah also discussed his personal experience with a Mars mission when he served as a Spacecraft Navigator at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab for the 2002 Mars Odyssey Mission. When asked when he thinks it will be feasible to land a human on Mars, Dr. Jah reported that we in fact have the capabilities now, but that we as a society have become extremely risk averse to a degree which limits our ability to explore space. 

In his discussion of space debris, Dr. Jah underscored the necessity of good measurements and verification mechanism in order to preclude a tragedy of the commons in space. Dr. Jah also discussed the exclusivity of the space community, emphasizing the need to “normalize space” so that all humans view it as just another sphere of human activity. To that end, he further noted, it is also important to include diverse voices in the decision making process for space-related activities. He ended on a bit of a grim note, advising that we become comfortable with the notion of “living in our own filth” as it is impossible to entirely wipe out the amount of debris presently orbiting in space. Listen to the full conversation here.