Over 50 years of humans conducting various activities in space has birthed technologies that are now used in multiple fields such as health, environment, security and infrastructure development. Space technology is the creation of technology used in the observation and exploration of space beyond Earth’s low orbit. Space exploration and technologies hold immense benefits and could helps us survive the worst effects of climate change.
Space technologies have navigational systems able to track any location on Earth. They are unaffected by natural disasters on Earth allowing them to give us real time information on disaster events and allow us to observe vast areas of the Earth simultaneously.1 For many environmental refugees, this is the difference between life and death.
Similarly, in the health sector, the last two years have shown us just how important surveillance is. Satellite-based technologies like the global navigation satellite system (GNSS) are game changing.2 You know the GNSS right? It’s what tells Uber’s, boda-boda’s and airplanes where to go. It also helps to track patient’s movements and contacts, monitor cargos and navigate drones for large scale disinfections3 and aid deliveries.
In 2011, a severe drought hit the Horn of Africa’s arid and semi-arid areas. Up to 5.7 million people were severely affected and nearly 260,000 people died.4 Climate data from the 2021 IPCC report shows droughts are only getting prolonged. As far as food security and climate related starvation is concerned, space technology can help us monitor land use, control land degradation, look for prospective ground water and ensure drought monitoring and proofing can happen.5 Food insecurity and drought related issues are not only something we would be able to handle but also prevent.
Floods and mudslides are no strangers to Kenya but disaster response and management is a whole other story. Over 25,000 Kenyans were displaced by floods in April of 2021 alone not mentioning the severe damages they caused.6 This is where space borne platforms come into the picture. We can use them to assess damages, coordinate humanitarian aid, coordinate evacuation measures and predict them in the first place.7
Space technologies can aid us in road planning, urban mapping, establishing digital villages as information kiosks and land use mapping.8 This will bolster economic growth leading to a boom in employment opportunities, better standards of education, healthcare and ease of accessibility between different regions of the state. The cost of production and transportation of goods will also reduce, a sigh of relief to us all.
In the world of peace and security, drones and satellite imaging technologies are synonymous with destructive intentions but have many benefits as well. An in-depth report by Drones in Humanitarian Action has shown they allow us to monitor displaced persons, monitor borders, deliver cargo and gather intelligence on conflicts.9 They also help us watch out for those pesky asteroids- which are an actual thing just ask the dinosaurs.
When it comes to the establishment of a space programme, there’s hierarchies one must follow like learning to crawl before walking.10 The steps require different levels of technology, the higher up you go the more complex the technology is. The kind of science and technology that is needed for a successful space agency is not necessarily only used in studying spaces’ environment or solar system excursion but involves the launching of satellites that have helped humanity tremendously.
Years ago, when our ancestors looked up at the sky and wondered what all that shit was, I’m pretty sure they didn’t think their generations would ever get to a point of travelling the Earth let alone colonizing it’s solar system. Yet here we are.