The Potential for Space Intervention in Global Catastrophes

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C.M. Hempsell (2004), JBIS, 57, 14-21

Refcode: 2004.57.14
Keywords: Space policy, global catastrophes, space infrastructure

There is growing understanding of the risks that mankind faces on a global scale. These range from extinction level events down to disasters, which kill a few percent of the global population. Studies of prehistory and history show naturally induced events have occurred in the past and to this must be added risks created by mankind's activities. After considering the possible events, it is shown that space policy needs to focus on the intermediate level events which are classified as “global catastrophes” and which are defined as events that kill at least a quarter the global population. A safety policy approach is then used to address the degree to which space capability can provide an effective response to the threat of global catastrophe. It is found that there are several possible space systems that could either prevent, or control or provide escape safe havens, but all require a significant improvement of the space infrastructure in terms of size and improved economics to make them viable. It is concluded addressing the threat of global catastrophe should be the prime focus of space infrastructure policy.

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