Space junk could be next property boom
This computer generated graphic by NASA shows space junk has made such a mess of Earth's orbit that experts say we may need to finally think about cleaning it up. Photo: AP
The term ''space junk'' has not been long in the lexicon, but it may already be time to junk it.
In the coming colonisation of space, one nation's space junk will probably be another's strategic heritage treasure, according to space archaeologist Alice Gorman.
''This is a lesson Australian Aboriginal people know all too well,'' says the Flinders University academic, whose unusual career combines her twin childhood dreams of astronomy and archaeology.
''In the future people might say, 'You have no right to use this orbit or resources because historically you have never been there'. So it could become critical to demonstrate you have an asset in space.'' Even if it's in pieces, and no longer works.
If the definition of space junk and its astropolitical implications seems too far over your head, Dr Gorman begs to differ.
The use of satellites for purposes from communicating to finding our way to knowing the weather means we all have a stake in space, she says.
Think of satellite navigation, aka satnav or GPS.
''Everybody uses it now. People are starting to lose the ability to think spatially and read maps. So the situation where somebody gains control of the geostationary orbit could have an absolutely phenomenal impact.''
With ''off-earth mining'' expected within 20 years, she warns it will take only a bold first mover to overcome the UN's Outer Space Treaty, which declared space ''the province of all mankind''.
At the TEDx event in Sydney in May, Dr Gorman will be urging people to spread their thinking into space. ''I think it's important to realise you don't have to stand idly by and watch the big space players make the decisions.''
Other speakers include Julian Assange's legal adviser, Jennifer Robinson, ''contemporary warrior''and former Australian Special Forces sniper Damien Mander on fighting poachers in Africa, and star designer Marc Newson.