Millennium People in Space was a Nesta and Nelly Ben Hayoun experimental workshop exploring the future of open access space through new Cubesat technology for disaster resilience and personal use.
Space exploration has historically been hugely expensive and difficult, but things are changing. Only a decade ago, the first private spaceflight carried three people to 100km above the earth's surface. Communication satellites have been privately developed since the 1960s. But only recently have they been a plausible option for anyone other than large corporations.
Much like the transition from room-sized computers to today’s miniature personal computers, the satellite industry may be seeing its own personalised revolution. Cubesat technology is making it easier for anyone to launch a small satellite into space and remotely access the information it collects. Cubesats are fostering a new spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship, but what is the future of open access space? Is this the beginning of a fully connected world? Is there any privacy from nanosatellite eyes? Could cubesats detect earthquakes before they happen?
This workshop looked at the cutting edge in accessible satellite technology, exploring new kinds of applications. It focussed on the role of satellite information in predicting and responding to humanitarian and natural disasters. Larger numbers of small satellite systems could aid monitoring, modelling and real-time disaster response. But how will the shift from government to private satellites affect the frameworks in place such as the International Charter for Space and Major Disasters?
Nesta held this workshop as part of a series of experiments in foresight to encourage responsible innovation and good technology governance. In a previous workshop we created six imagined futures for health data sharing. Our aim is to provoke policy and technology communities into actions that increase the value to society of fast-developing technologies.
Couldn't attend but want to find out more? Download the Smart Resources booklet on the right-hand side of this page.
Couldn't attend the event? Download the programme and speaker details on the right-hand side of this page. Workshop report, video and Storify summary coming soon.