‘How is the air up there?⁽¹⁾

THE PORTER REPORT | A monthly update on the business world from leading writer David Porter

- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -

Entrepreneurial Texas- based space company Intuitive Machines is basking in the glory of having created and managed the first American lunar module since 1972 to land on the moon. They acted as a contractor to NASA. And IM’s stock price has soared.

David Porter

The landing represents a vivid example of the US government’s attempt to privatise and reduce some of the enormous cost of space exploration.

The module is reportedly beginning to send reports back to Earth.

As I have commented before in this column, our visible space is becoming crowded. As a result of the perfectly understandable desire of many to explore and understand the universe, the space that immediately surrounds us is becoming increasingly cluttered.

Leaving to one side the aspirations of various earlier exploratory expeditions to the moon and to deeper space, we face a huge long-term problem. Our relentless increase in the use of GPS, the internet and mobile phones has resulted in a deluge of satellites circling the Earth, as well as thousands of orbiting fragments.

Currently there are reportedly nearly 7,000 satellites within a few hundred miles of Earth, a number that reportedly could grow to several hundred thousand by 2027.

As space scientist Chris Impey commented in a recent online article on Ars Technica, “space junk is on the rise, and no one is in charge of cleaning it up”. He was writing in an article republished in The Conversation.

Recently in August 2023, Russia’s Luna-25 probe crashed into the Moon’s surface, while India’s Chandrayaan-3 mission successfully landed.

“With more countries landing on the Moon, people back on Earth will have to think about what happens to all the landers, waste, and miscellaneous debris left on the lunar surface and in orbit,” wrote Impey. “Like many other space experts, I’m concerned about the lack of governance around space debris.”

The debris includes nearly 100 bags of human waste. Humans have also left a lot of other junk on the moon, including rocket boosters from more than 50 crash landings, plus everything from feathers to golf balls.

Meanwhile, Earth’s orbit apparently includes broken spacecraft and sundry pieces of debris dropped by astronauts. And the fragments are fast-moving, many times quicker and more potentially lethal than a bullet.

However, there is one potentially brighter thought (depending on how you feel about the existence or otherwise of an afterlife, or cemeteries). At least two companies are offering “cheap” options to blast your loved one’s ashes into space and secure a repository for them on the Moon. Compared to the reported cost of some American funerals, I suppose they could be considered cheap. The waiting list is apparently now open.

The cremated remains of more than 450 people have reportedly been blasted into space since Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry paved the way in 1992. But apparently, almost every tiny cache of ashes has come back down to Earth or been burned up on re-entry, according to news reports. Hence, presumably, the enthusiasm of private companies to offer a promised site of eternal rest on the Moon.

⁽¹⁾Songwriters: Steve Duboff, Artie Kornfeld

Related: Going up in smoke

David Porter
David Porter
THE PORTER REPORT - A monthly update on the business world from David Porter

Related Articles