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Environmental Protection & Preservation

Space Environmentalism?

The publication of Space: The Fragile Frontier, a new book by Mark Williamson, marks a crossroads in space exploration and development.

For the first time, here is a book that extends the ethos of environmental protection -- now commonplace here on Earth -- to the space environment. Its bold suggestions and pragmatic style have already evoked discussions among the space community, which may one day lead to new and more sustainable ways of exploring space.

The author, independent space technology consultant Mark Williamson, is a chartered engineer with more than 25 years' experience in satellite communications engineering, technical management and space consultancy. "This book is not about banning access to space, or making life more difficult for businesses that use its unique resources," says Williamson. "Quite the contrary. It's about protecting the orbital assets used by commercial satellites, preventing contamination of planetary surfaces in the quest for extraterrestrial life, and preserving the cultural heritage of the lunar landing sites for the space tourists of the future."

Space: The Fragile Frontier is the first book to draw together the recognized issues of Earth orbital debris and planetary protection, set them in the context of space law and ethical policies, and encourages a balance between desirable expansion into space and protection of the space environment. By analogy with terrestrial environmentalism, it calls for a sustainable approach to space exploration and development.

Prof. James Van Allen, discoverer of the Earth's radiation belts, writes in his foreword: "This important book provides an authoritative dose of prudence to the flourishing fields of space exploration and space technology ... The four concluding chapters of this comprehensive book are obligatory reading for every person who has a responsible role in space operations and/or space policy."

In addition to presenting the facts, arguments and possible solutions, the book presents opposing scenarios for the future of space exploration and development. They are written, in fictional style, from the perspective of the year 2057 -- the centenary of the Space Age -- offering three different views of our future in space. "It is notoriously hard to predict the future," says the author, "but borrowing the methods of a different genre liberates our minds to consider the 'what-if scenarios' we might otherwise ignore."

Space: The Fragile Frontier is aimed at scientists, engineers and policy- makers; students intending to develop a career in a space-related subject; and anyone with an interest in space exploration and development. You may not agree with everything you read, but it will change the way you think about space and everything that is done there.

Space: The Fragile Frontier is published by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

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