It's not just the ISS partnership — commercial satellites, international cooperation, and managing space debris may all be impacted by the war in Ukraine. Professor Mariel Borowitz, an expert in international space policy and space sustainability, joins the show to discuss the immediate consequences, potential policy changes, and lessons the global community is learning from the conflict.
Related Reading and References
- Mariel Borowitz's academic profile and CV
- Legally, Russia can’t just take its Space Station and go home
- Op-ed: Advances in commercial space having geopolitical and national security implications
- Planetary Science Decadal Survey: After the Red Planet, an Ice Giant
- The WeMartians Podcast: Casey Dreier on the Planetary Science Decadal Survey
- Subscribe to the Space Advocate Newsletter
Mat Kaplan: Welcome everyone to the May 2022 Space Policy Edition of Planetary Radio. It is the anniversary edition, Casey. I forgot to mention this when we were prepping. How many years has it been now?
Casey Dreier: Actually, I would be in big trouble if this was a more intimate relationship. I don't remember. Six years? Have we done this for six years now?
Mat Kaplan: I think it's six years, which I find absolutely amazing and very satisfying. Congratulations.
Casey Dreier: Well, thank you, Mat. And thank you for indulging me on this weird show for the last six years. I think that means I've been around doing the show for what, a third of the entire existence of plan rad as an independent show?
Mat Kaplan: Almost. Since we're going on 20 years this coming November, but still very respectable.
Casey Dreier: Yeah, very respectable, near a third of the time. What a delight to do this show. I remember the moment I decided I wanted to do this. I was walking down the street. I was looking for ways to have... In a sense, moral ways to work with you, but also to play around with these ideas because writing takes a long time, right?
Mat Kaplan: Yeah.
Casey Dreier: To write well. But as most podcasters have discovered, very easy to speak at length about things. And so everyone listening, thank you for allowing me to do so for six years. And Mat, for putting these together, and putting so much of your time editing and making me sound better and making our guests sound great. And just in all sense, making this show happen. It's just been a joy to do this with you.
Mat Kaplan: Well, thank you for all of that. I'm glad that getting to work together was part of your incentive for doing this. I think we have delivered something valuable. It certainly has been very educational, very illuminating for me. What a string of terrific guests we have had on. And that's going to continue with today's show as you will no doubt explain in just a moment.
Mat Kaplan: First though, thank you to all of you out there, especially those of you who are members or donors to The Planetary Society. It is you, most especially our members, who make all of this happen. We could not have taken on this addition, this satellite to Planetary Radio without your support. In fact, we never would've taken on Planetary Radio itself in the first place. So thank you to all of you for making this happen.
Mat Kaplan: We would love to be able to include you in that message of gratitude if you're not already a member or a donor to the society planetary.org/join. And we have a big membership campaign underway right now as Casey and I speak, which you will maybe hear a little bit of a celebrity talk about during our quick break toward the middle of this week's, excuse me, this month's program. Again, it's planetary.org/join. You don't have to wait for a message other than that one right there. We hope you'll take a look and join up.
Casey Dreier: Yeah, we're trying to get 500 new members in two weeks. So if you're listening to this show when it comes out and you haven't signed up as a member, please consider doing so. It costs less than a Disney Plus subscription or a Netflix subscription. It's less than that. It goes directly into the organization. It keeps us doing shows like this. And also for existing members, consider upping your membership. We have higher levels of membership for people who want to contribute more and really allow us to do this kind of stuff.
Casey Dreier: So thank you if you're already a member and thank you if you sign up as a consequence of this. It really does. And I say this all the time, but it's true. Right, Mat? It really does make a difference. We live and die with our members, and if we don't have you, we don't exist as an organization.
Mat Kaplan: That is exactly right. The Mandalorian has nothing on Casey except for that beskar armor.
Casey Dreier: It's basically the same otherwise, yeah.
Mat Kaplan: So we do have this great guest. You want to tease that a little bit, and then we're going to talk a little bit more about the decadal. The Planetary Science and Astrobiology Decadal.
Casey Dreier: Yes, we'll get to that. Dr. Mariel Borowitz, she's an Associate Professor of International Affairs at Georgia Tech. This is a topic that we've had a ton of requests on. It took us a while to find a time to work with her, to talk about this. I'm so glad it worked out though, because we're going to talk about Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The consequences that we're seeing in space, including on the International Space Station. The broader issues of international space relations, space sustainability, and the unique ways in which space and particularly commercial space, is intersecting in this conflict in ways that just have not happened before. Very fascinating discussion, big picture stuff. Beyond our normal area of civil space science, the peaceful fun stuff. This is really important and I thought a very insightful conversation we had with Mariel coming up in just a few minutes.
Mat Kaplan: I've already heard it, of course. She is a delight to listen to, and so I also hardly recommend it. And that is again, just moments away. But in the meantime, Casey, we don't have to go into tremendous detail on the decadal because you actually have done that elsewhere.
Casey Dreier: Yes, so the planetary science decadal survey. The once a decade set of recommendations from the scientific community outlining the future of NASA's Robotic Planetary Program. It came out in between this show and the last show. We already had Dr. Borowitz signed up for this show. So we're going to push off a full episode about this into the future, but we should talk about some of the big picture stuff.
Casey Dreier: You're right, I wrote a whole article on this at planetary.org. Highlighting some of the basic takeaways and initial analyses of this big report which again, has a lot of impact to the future of robotic science. Twice times that it's happened before, the top recommendations have been manifested by NASA, even though they're not mandated to do so. These recommendations. They turned into the Curiosity rover, and then also into the Perseverance rover and the Europa Clipper orbiter, or all missions recommended prior decadal surveys.
Casey Dreier: Top recommendations. We will never hear the end of these jokes, we get used to them now. We are going to probe Uranus starting in the 2030s maybe. And this is the big flagship mission to an ice giant. The first dedicated mission to these types of large planets that have more heavier elements in various forms of ices, like carbon and nitrogen, rather than hydrogen and helium which make up the gas giants, Saturn and Jupiter.
Casey Dreier: These are planets that are very similar to the most common type of exoplanets that astronomers are discovering around other stars. Of course, we only had that one fly by of Uranus in 1986 by Voyager 2. So this is a big, exciting mission that we're going to see. Though of course, it won't probably even launch until the early 2030s. Takes 10 years to get there. We're talking about a mission 20 years from now. But that's the big takeaway, there's a good chance that'll happen. Mat, you want to jump in that? What was your reaction to seeing Uranus rise to the top for this decadal survey?
Mat Kaplan: Well, I was thrilled of course. And you've just proven that you do know the correct pronunciation of the planet. I always think when I hear that other pronunciation of my one and only college astronomy course and the professor who said, "It's Uranus. This is an astronomy course, not an anatomy course."
Mat Kaplan: But we have had so many people on the weekly Planetary Radio show, as well as SPE, who have been calling out, crying out in the wilderness for a mission to one of the ice giants while we were just talking to the proposals or the people behind the case study for the Neptune Odyssey mission. At least we are going to one of the two now. Hopefully, Neptune will one day get its literal day in the sun. It is thrilling to know that this is about to happen, and this is the top priority, right?
Casey Dreier: Yep.
Mat Kaplan: I mean, is there any hope that we might also see that second priority, the Orbilander to Enceladus?
Casey Dreier: To Enceladus, that's the other. Ranked number two. I would say very difficult financially. Big picture, let's talk about some of the other top priorities. So number two was the Orbilander. I love this mission. It would orbit and then land. Because Enceladus is so tiny, it's easy to do both with the same spacecraft and it would land near some of these geysers of water and other material being spew out from the South Pole of Enceladus. Life detection mission, very cool. But unfortunately, ranked number two.
Casey Dreier: The kind of uber priority of all of this is not a new mission. And I think that's important here too. Before even starting a Uranus mission, we need to finish Mars sample-return. That was the clear takeaway from this decadal, that the most important mission of this period for NASA's robotic space program is to complete Mars sample-return as soon as possible.
Casey Dreier: That makes sense. We're already a couple years into it. NASA's requesting on the order of $822 million a year, which is larger than the entire Heliophysics Division in its Science Mission Directorate. So this is a big, chunky mission. And delays or anything perturbing this mission will have serious financial repercussions. So we need to get this done. It needs the resources right now to finish that, to have a minimum impact on the rest of planetary science. And that's also called out by the report.
Mat Kaplan: Did you see, Casey? It may have just been this morning, certainly not before yesterday. This announcement from at least one scientist involved with ESA's ExoMars rover, Rosalind Franklin. That it may now not launch until 2028, and maybe they'd somehow turn it into the sample-return portion of ESA's responsibility.
Casey Dreier: Yeah, that was an enigmatic statement by that individual. This is ESA's ExoMars, which is supposed to launch on a Russian rocket this year. Obviously with the issues in Ukraine, that is not happening and just a serious blow. We talked about this a little bit to that mission. So they can't launch it until earliest of '28. That starts getting pretty late. That's about as late as you could launch a sample-return, a caching mission. They could maybe modify if it becomes tricky.
Casey Dreier: It's a rover that's not designed for the caching return. It's a rover designed to do its own independent science investigation, has all these other instrumentation on it, including an instrument that cost NASA about $150 million to make over the last 10 years. That adds a level of complexity, and bolting on or modifying it at this latest stage may not be feasible. I see more overlap with the other recommended Mars mission in this decadal called the Mars Life Explorer mission, which was a phoenix like spacecraft that would land and drill into the ice to look for potential microbes in some subterranean ice. That's doing what Rosalind Franklin is designed to do already. Maybe there's some opportunity there.
Casey Dreier: Regardless, I think NASA's Mars program right now is going all in on Mars sample-return, which is an interesting problem because they're deferring all kind of future missions until after Mars sample-return. So this 25-year beautiful Mars Exploration Program, this in situ scientific program is facing somewhat of an identity crisis. While they put everything into sample-return, what do they do next? So maybe there's some real opportunity here for NASA to reengage as a partner on ExoMars for a lower cost than just building a brand new mission of their own. Who knows? There's some interesting opportunities to take advantage of this situation. Maybe Mars sample-return is part of that, maybe it's not. It's a very dynamic and evolving situation.
Mat Kaplan: Man, that is the entire world right now. A very dynamic situation.
Casey Dreier: Yeah, that's true. You can say that about everything.
Mat Kaplan: We should also give a plug to that other podcast that you also talked about the decadal on.
Casey Dreier: If you'd like to jump ahead a couple months and hear me talk in-depth about the decadal through all the major sections, I did do an interview with Jake Robins at the WeMartians Podcast. He's a great interviewer, really dives deep onto these issues. I think he did end up doing a two-parter episode on the decadal survey with me, and so we really go into it. That's a preview of these in-depth discussions there.
Casey Dreier: I do want to highlight just a couple other things on the decadal. So besides Mars, so besides the flagships, the other things that we saw were recommendation to increase funding for basic research. That's really important just for the health of the scientific community. That's the only place that they can stay funded to do the actual science of the data that returns. We also saw recommendations for increasing the overall cost caps of the discovery and new frontiers, these small and medium class planetary missions. They had a whole analysis on the workforce issues and ways to increase diversity and participation within planetary science, which is obviously really important.
Casey Dreier: I think again, just the big picture of these, which is a fascinating document to read. It outlines the big questions that they're trying to answer, and I think that's an important aspect. They start with the questions and all of these missions that they then recommend are ways to address those questions directly. And they actually have these really nice graphs that show how the Uranus mission or Mars Life Finder mission or any other these proposed missions, intersect with some of these top priority fundamental science questions that the scientific community has identified about our solar system, our origin here, and where it's going. And so it's just a very useful document to read if you want to understand the field of planetary science and how much we know, and frankly, how much we still have yet to know.
Mat Kaplan: There is so much more to this. Again, you can find Casey's terrific analysis at planetary.org. We will, of course, link to that from the page at planetary.org/radio for this episode of the Space Policy Edition.
Casey Dreier: The one other thing I want to mention is that it does talk about planetary defense for the first time. This is the key area of not getting hit by an asteroid of course. And what was great to see is that they strongly endorsed the NEO Surveyor space telescope, that Sentinel mission that would be sitting out there in space, searching for asteroids in the infrared where they glow from the heat of the sun. Otherwise, they're very hard to spot because they're just little charcoal briquettes of space rock against the black backdrop.
Casey Dreier: However, NASA's proposing a $100 million cut to this mission in 2023. And now we have a decadal survey saying, "No. This is an absolutely critical piece of planetary program. We should pursue this mission as quickly as possible." And then we're going to be using that here in the next couple of months to really make a strong argument in defense of NEO Surveyor, and frankly, in defense of the whole planetary program. I think we release an official statement that you can also find online.
Casey Dreier: The Planetary Society intends to vigorously advocate for the recommended program here. And this will be defining a lot of our advocacy efforts for the next 10 years to really start to see these missions, to manifest them, to make them happen. So when we're sitting around in our retirement homes, we can see those beautiful images of Uranus and Neptune, and maybe even the Orbilander from Enceladus coming down. These are generational activities that we all get to be a part of and hopefully experience because exploration just takes time. But it can happen. We're seeing it happen now with Mars sample-return, and I want to see it happen with Uranus. I want to see it happen with Enceladus.
Mat Kaplan: So lots to keep Casey, and our man in Washington, Brendan Curry, the Director of Washington Operations for The Planetary Society. Very busy for the foreseeable future, perhaps for the foreseeable future decades. All right. Remind us once again where Mariel is from, and we'll get into that great conversation you just had with her.
Casey Dreier: Dr. Mariel Borowitz, she's an Associate Professor of International Affairs at Georgia Tech. Her research deals with international space policy, particularly with Earth observation satellites and satellite data sharing, but she also focuses on strategy and developments in space security and situational awareness. So basically, the meat and potato stuff about how we use low Earth orbit and geosynchronous orbit, how we make that a safe domain for all nations to operate in, and emerging threats from a national security perspective.
Casey Dreier: We talk about, again, the consequences to this space domain from Russia's invasion of Ukraine, some of the things that she was surprised by in terms of how space is being integrated into that conflict, and where we see future efforts at cooperation or not. Anti-cooperation or competition unfolding as a result of this. Again, really interesting discussion with her. Something I've been wanting to dive into for a long time. I think you're going to really enjoy the conversation.
Mat Kaplan: And it's a very timely one. Here is that excellent conversation between Casey Dreier, Chief Advocate for The Planetary Society and our Senior Space Policy Adviser, and Mariel Borowitz. We'll see you on the other side.
Casey Dreier: Dr. Mariel Borowitz, thank you for joining us today on the Space Policy Edition.
Mariel Borowitz: Thank you so much for having me.
Casey Dreier: Lots to talk about today. Perhaps the most questioned topic that we've been getting from our members and listeners has been about the International Space Station. So I'd like to start there, and then expand outwards to the larger geopolitical or global consequences to the space domain from this Russian invasion of Ukraine. So has anything changed so far since the Russian invasion and the subsequent sanctions imposed on the country by most of the nations in the world?
Mariel Borowitz: From a practical perspective, the day to day operations of the International Space Station have stayed the same and there have been no official changes even to the longer term policy. Russia has made a few statements about potentially ending their participation in the International Space station at some point, but there's been no official decision about that. And NASA and the other partners have really been emphasizing the fact that day to day operations are continuing forward.
Casey Dreier: We're months now into this conflict. We can emphasize this enough that day to day operations have not changed. And why do people think that they have? I think maybe that's worth discussing a little bit. Why is there this idea or even occasional news stories saying otherwise, that Russia's pulling out or Russia's going to abandon US astronauts there? Where is this coming from?
Mariel Borowitz: It's coming from Russia. So the head of the Russian space agency has made a number of statements in Russian news sources, I think some on Twitter, basically saying that maybe Russia will end its participation in the International Space Station. What he hasn't done is say we are going to do that or putting a particular date on that. But that's where those stories are coming from, they're making statements that that's something they're considering. And they're being fairly provocative about it as well. So saying things like maybe the Russia will end its participation and the US really needs us, that the ISS will no longer be able to operate if Russia pulls out of the station. So therefore, the US needs to end sanctions or end certain sanctions at least. So kind of trying to leverage it in that way.
Casey Dreier: Right. I mean they were putting out. It's hard to say exactly whether it was a declaration that they would do or a suggestion that they would abandon their role in the station, unless the US and its allies lifted sanctions. The US and its allies did not lift sanctions. These statements by Dmitry Rogozin are almost designed to be misleading. To put it in modern parts, almost like the equivalent of shit posting online where it's purposely provocative, meant to mislead. But then at the end of the day, the actions don't change.
Casey Dreier: We just saw another round of news stories I think earlier this week as we record this, that they were going to leave. But really, if you parse his language it's like, "No, he would give a one year notification if they were, but nothing has been done yet." Because Russia's signed on to operate the ISS through 2024, so is the US and its partners. They're working on extending it to 2030. But nothing seems to be really happening besides rhetoric and I think it's worth explaining. Why is that do you think? Why are they stuck in this rhetorical trap?
Mariel Borowitz: It's an interdependent system. All the partners rely on each other and it's the same for Russia. Russia needs the US and its partners to participate in the International Space Station and for Russia to continue those activities. And arguably, Russia needs the International space Station just like it's the heart of our human space activity right now. That's the only thing that our astronauts do, is really go to the International Space Station and work and live there.
Mariel Borowitz: It's the same for Russia. You can say, "Oh, we're going to end this participation. And what will you do to boost the station and keep it in orbit?" But also, what will Russia do with its human spaceflight program. They pull out of the International Space Station, suddenly they don't have any real purpose for what their cosmonauts are doing. They won't have any location to go to, they won't have any clear pathway for research or other things.
Mariel Borowitz: They also need the International Space Station and need the partners to continue to cooperate there. I think that's part of the reason that you see this. And I think some of it can be personality as well. I mean, back in 2014 with the invasion of Crimea as well, you saw Rogozin also making these kind of provocative statements with respect to space. And I think in some cases, it came back to bite Russia in some ways. I think that can be driving it as well.
Casey Dreier: Is that when he made the trampolines comment?
Mariel Borowitz: Yeah. He talked about the trampolines. He was also the one who originally put forth the idea that maybe Russia wouldn't provide RD-180 engines anymore. He made that statement off hand. But in both of those cases, the US Congress and kind of policy world really responded that and said, "Wait a minute, maybe we shouldn't be using RD-180 engines anymore." And the US Congress actually passed the law to say, "After a certain number, we're not going to buy those engines anymore." And I think that was actually probably worse for Russia than it was for us.
Mariel Borowitz: They really relied on that income stream. They're the ones who made this initial comment, didn't take any action on it, and in the end it was the US that took action. And similarly, you mentioned with the use of trampoline to get to the space station because back then, shuttle had been retired. We didn't have commercial crew yet, so we were totally reliant on Russia for those rides. But after those statements were made, after that situation, Congress really doubled down on providing funding for commercial crew. So I think in both of those cases.
Casey Dreier: Yeah. It was around that time that you started to see the Congress again meeting those requests of funding to really continue commercial crew, and all that debate or underfunding really dropped away. I never connected those two, but that really does align. I mean, you could broadly apply this to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. That seems just really bad long term strategic decisions here, to be talking and acting like this. So even though nothing functionally seems to have changed, right?
Casey Dreier: I mean we saw astronaut Mark Vande Hei come back on a Soyuz, successfully get safely back to earth and then back to the United States. We're still talking with the Russians about seed exchange on Soyuz and commercial crew vehicles. But there's no longer, it seems like a discussion about integrating Russia into longer term human spaceflight plans after the space station, after ISS. And that had already kind of started to happen.
Casey Dreier: This is one of the questions that I had for you as this broader topic for this discussion, which was how much of this is coming as a result of the invasion of Ukraine versus how much is this an acceleration of preexisting trends, in terms of cooperation. And how this role of cooperation, it's simultaneously this optimistic integration, but also somewhat binding and limiting. It can be very difficult almost by the [inaudible 00:25:20]. So let's touch on the first one. First, is this just an acceleration of trends?
Mariel Borowitz: I think the turning point was really Crimea, and that's where you see the US and Russia starting to really go their independent ways. Particularly US, really start to focus on looking at independence rather than cooperation with Russia. And that's true with the International Space Station with, the RD-180 engines, and other areas as well. So we still had other talk about scientific cooperation and other areas, but I think those two big areas, that's where you start to really see that change happening.
Mariel Borowitz: And building to your other question about, what is this overall trend? I think it is helpful to think about why did we get in these partnerships in the first place? It was not an accident. It wasn't just a financial situation. It was very much a strategic decision to engage Russia in the International Space Station or to purchase those RD-180 engines from Russia. That was a decision made on largely a national level, that it was going to be in the US national interest to do that.
Mariel Borowitz: We were doing things like helping to infuse funding into Russia's program, ensure that those people were going to be working on either civil space projects or on space technology that was being sold to the US, as opposed to elsewhere. Those were things that made a lot of sense from a US strategic perspective. And also had benefits for Russia as well. So it was mutually beneficial.
Casey Dreier: Context at the end of the Cold War.
Mariel Borowitz: Exactly. But I think if you look at the situation today, we just don't have that same demand to try to engage with Russia. There isn't this immediate concern about what's going to happen to these rocket scientists like there was at the end of the Cold War. And I think it's just becoming less and less tenable to have this kind of close cooperation given Crimea and now the war in Ukraine.
Casey Dreier: Yeah.
Mariel Borowitz: Space is different and special in some ways. And I think there are reasons that we can sometimes cooperate in space even when we have tensions in other areas. But it's not a fully separate, completely insulated from everything else going on in the world. It still has to fit with overall US strategic interests.
Casey Dreier: That's really interesting, because there's two ways that this ISS is kind of pitched. And I'd say, at least in the last 20 years, it's kind of generally been the focus on, "Oh, it's a cooperative thing. This is where we all have a shared interest in space." And this is an international... I mean, it's in the name. International effort to be in space together. And it almost downplays the initial policy goal of keeping ex-Soviet rocket expertise out of more nefarious actors hands.
Casey Dreier: It almost now seems like the original policy goal is kind of outdated, but we're stuck in the framework of this broader one now that no longer makes sense. The world changed obviously in the last 30 years, but we're tied to a policy that no longer makes sense. It was almost a short term policy that's now masquerading as a long term policy.
Mariel Borowitz: I think there were also hopes that it could have grander results. And so I think there was that immediate need to say, "Okay, let's bring in Russia. Let's keep these rocket scientists employed." But I think there was hope back then and for many years that this engagement with Russia was going to be a pathway for us to engage with them, to work together, to learn more about each other. And we see that in other areas as well. The US, up until early 2022, was having bilateral meetings with Russia about space security issues, space sustainability.
Mariel Borowitz: Having that kind of engagement and particularly on what you can see as low-hanging fruit things that we can agree on. We can agree on human spaceflight and the importance of that and our interest in that. We can agree on space sustainability, and making sure space remains a usable place, or at least we thought we could. So I think it makes sense to try to have that kind of engagement and to hope that by engaging in these areas, we can then grow that to other areas as well and have better understanding between the two nations. And from a US perspective, have some influence.
Mariel Borowitz: There's always a question of, "Can you have more influence or achieve your goals better by engaging with another entity or by isolating that entity?" I think we were giving engagement a try, and I think that there were some high hopes for that. But I think with Crimea and now with the war in Ukraine, the US is going to turn to a different method.
Casey Dreier: Yeah, but we're kind of stuck though with the station. So that was going to be my other question like is this a policy success, in a sense? That even when we're somewhat both morally and strategically and self-interest, all these other things are kind of distancing ourselves from Russia due to this invasion. The fact that we cannot do so on the station. Is that what it was designed to do or are we kind of bound to? That's kind of what I was getting at. Is this the remnant of some other era that we're now bearing this burden? And like we can't make that clean break. I mean, it almost feels like good. We can't. Like that's the whole point, right?
Mariel Borowitz: Right. I think that was the point. I think you're right. I think you get into these partnerships where you're fully interdependent because it raises the stakes for everyone involved. That said, if one of the partners then, despite those high stakes, decides to cause problems for that relationship, then I think in some ways... I don't know if I would call it a failure. I think that there's so many years of operating and success. And I still think you have to think about different levels. On a high national strategy kind of level, I think it may no longer be playing the role that we had originally hoped.
Mariel Borowitz: But I do think there's still value in the day to day and the individuals involved, and also in what we're accomplishing. We may not want to engage with Russia today. But I think over the last 30 years, being able to show that we can work with potential adversaries to have that astronauts, the cosmonauts, or the operators on the Russian side and the US side, and our other partners, Japan and Europe. I think being able to get that day to day operation working and form those friendships and partnerships and things, I think there was value there. And I think there still is some value there.
Mariel Borowitz: It's really challenging I think, for those people working on it day to day. We have people living in space. That's amazing. And we have people from countries that are having serious geopolitical problems on the Earth. But as individuals operating in space, they're doing wonderful things. I think that aspect of it is still good. And as individual humans, there's things we can see there that are positive. But yeah, in the larger geopolitical sense, I think it's no longer achieving its goal.
Casey Dreier: Yeah. There's always been that symbolic aspect of it. Flipping this too, the Russians are as stuck in this as well. Like they're not able to leverage this the way that they seem to want to. Again, we mentioned at the beginning, they didn't get a relaxation of sanctions. They clearly have, by investing in a cooperative effort for the station, they gave up some kind of self control over their own destiny. And now they are themselves stuck in this.
Casey Dreier: Unlike other things, where they were able to walk away from the OneWeb deal, they were able to pull their launch facilities out of the ESA launch facilities. They have to keep doing this because as you point out, they have just no other options. Again, maybe that's also the policy success that they aren't themselves flipping it. They're stuck in this as much as anybody. And they can say whatever they want, they can have whatever rhetoric to, but at the end of the day, they don't have the money or resources to rapidly spin up some alternative human spaceflight program. Particularly from their legacy that they carry as launching the first satellite and launching the first person into space. It kind of works in that sense too. It's forcing them to stay cooperative at some level as well.
Mariel Borowitz: It is. And I would say, in a lot of ways, Russia's behavior in this area has been really surprising. Because some of the things you mentioned, deciding not to operate Soyuz and French Guiana anymore, or having these demands for OneWeb that were completely untenable and losing those launches. I mean, the impact on Russian commercial launch for years, I can't imagine that coming back. And [inaudible 00:34:08].
Casey Dreier: Right. Because who would trust a launch contract with them?
Mariel Borowitz: Right. So that's going to have a huge negative impact for them, and that was their own doing. They chose to pull out of that. So from that perspective, if they do manage to somehow extract themselves from the International Space Station. Like you're saying, it'd have major negative repercussions for them. But I guess that hasn't stopped them in some of these other areas. Yeah, so I think there's some question there.
Casey Dreier: At the end of the day I was thinking this too. This partnership at a station relies on that. There's rational actors involved in this. And I think that's just the bigger geopolitical question about how much of a rational actor is Russia currently on the global stage. People have debates about also Putin's state of mind and what he's trying to get out of this strategically. But the whole agreement, the IGA breaks down if there is a chaotic partner suddenly within that, who doesn't care about their own self-interest or ability and outcome in. So far in practice, it seems like they have. But rhetorically, they're getting further and further away from that.
Casey Dreier: One more point I want to touch on with the ISS before we move on to broader issues. You brought this up a bit, this idea of engagement versus competition. I fear in some ways that, particularly places like China and other emerging nations, are going to take the wrong lesson out of this. Or look at this and say, from Russia's perspective, "Okay. They engaged, they cooperated. And at the end of the day, they were completely over the barrel stuck with this. They didn't have that ability to drive their own destiny." There's no self-determination in that. That was the consequence of cooperation, is losing that independence.
Casey Dreier: You look at China's program, which has been generally isolated by the US. And all it's done is led them to develop their own completely independent capabilities. They have their own space station now. And so the lesson for them almost strikes me as saying, "Never cooperate at a massive level like this, because then other nations will have leverage over your goals and other global actions." This is maybe a broader consequence of this invasion, is revealing in a sense the inherent weaknesses of global interdependence when you start having more nationalistic independent activities that threaten, that you just assume that there's going to be this base level of engagement and rationality that may not be consistent anymore.
Mariel Borowitz: Yeah. I mean, there is always this question about how much interdependence do you want, even when we're dealing with allies. One of the lessons learned from the Constellation program, literally in their lessons learned document. In that case, the US didn't want to have any of the partners on its critical path so that all of the core elements of the project were going to be US only. And this meant even allies were kind of doing things that added to the program, but weren't central to it.
Mariel Borowitz: It turned out after the fact, they really learned that the international partners were not happy with that, that people don't want to just add on to somebody else's project. And I think that's true with our allies and that's true with potential adversaries as well, or competitors. Russia originally was looking at participating on the Lunar Gateway program, and ultimately decided not to do that. And the reason they gave is it's too US-centric, which some people interpreted as another provocative thing for Rogozin to say.
Mariel Borowitz: But I think there might be some truth to that, that Russia doesn't want to be a junior partner to the US program and that may have been how it was seen. I think you have the same issue for China. For them, if there's some kind of engagement, they would want to be a major partner, not just a contributor. And so the types of things they're doing where they're building their own space station and saying it's open for others to visit. They're working with Europe.
Mariel Borowitz: But they've, at least in theory, said it's open to other countries, presumably the United States as well. Because I think that kind of cooperation where you maybe visit each other's stations or something like that, is of more interest to them. That's going to have more benefit in terms of the visibility. It puts them on an even footing in terms of being a partner. So I think that's the kind of things that these countries are looking for. Maybe there'll be an opportunity for interdependence in the future. I think building up to that, I think there is a desire to first show that independent capability.
Casey Dreier: Do you think this is going to lead towards political statement level or global geopolitical blocks of cooperation? Do you see a future with Russian-Chinese cooperation as an [inaudible 00:39:01] kind of point to Western and US allies cooperation? And maybe other blocks of space nations that represent aligned political interests versus this kind of inter broad global space cooperation. So I saw someone mention like a NATO space station. It would be a very different type of station than the current one that we have in terms of what it's saying.
Mariel Borowitz: I think the direction we've been going with moon plans for example, has definitely been breaking into blocks. Having the Artemis program with the US and its allies, and then Russia and China looking at a separate program. Not only in terms of the overall mission that pursuing, but also like the Artemis Accords. Russia and China have not signed onto those and presumably would like to do something separate. I think that is the direction we are headed more than full international coordination on these issues.
Mariel Borowitz: We were seeing before this, Europe at least cooperating more with Russia and China. So not these huge large scale projects like Artemis, but Lunar lander, the ExoMars project. And I think one of the near term effects is that Russia is just coming off as not a dependable partner. All of those activities are being canceled, and that's years of work. Its scientific benefit that we're not going to get or that's going to be significantly delayed. And so I think there may be repercussions for Russia in terms of just reliability in future partnership.
Mat Kaplan: A lot more of Casey's conversation with Mariel Borowitz is just ahead, so stick around.
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Casey Dreier: So let's zoom out a bit from Russia, ISS, and US-ISS relationships to look at some of the consequences to the broader space ecosystem derived from the Russian invasion of Ukraine. You specialize obviously in international affairs and national space security issues and space sustainability. I think those are all very relevant here. Maybe I'll just turn this over to you. What are some of the major changes or aspects in which space has intersected with this invasion? Is that represent a break or a continuation again of trends that we've been seeing over the past decade?
Mariel Borowitz: Yeah. I'll say one of the things that's been really interesting. I teach a course on Space Security at Georgia Tech. Up until now, so many things have just been theoretical. If there's a conflict, what would commercial satellite operators do? Would they be involved? Would they be writing services or information? And if they get involved and they provide those things, what is going to be the reaction of the nations involved. These were all things we'd debate in previous iterations of the class in this very theoretical way, and now we're seeing that play out.
Mariel Borowitz: So for that question in particular, commercial entities very much got involved in the conflict in Ukraine. And so you saw communication satellites, most notably. Or publicly, was probably the SpaceX's Starlink where Ukrainian officials tweeted out a request for terminals for help from Starlink. And then Elon Musk responded via tweet that they were going to provide them and they did. But other satellite providers Iridium, Viasat, they've been operating in Ukraine as well. And then also the commercial imagery, remote sensing.
Mariel Borowitz: So I've done a lot of research as well looking at international cooperation in Earth observations and in remote sensing, and kind of how the commercial sector interacts with the government. And this again has been this really interesting case study in seeing how these companies have been right in the thick of it. I mean, they've been providing imagery to the US government, to NATO and others, but then also directly to Ukraine. Sometimes that gets covered. You see that talked about in the news as if it's this completely independent action of the commercial companies. And there is an element of that, they are making their own independent choices. But it also has been very clearly encouraged by the US government and European governments as well. It's been an interesting type of partnership.
Casey Dreier: They buy. They have agreements already with these companies to buy a lot of their remote sensing data to begin with. I think what really struck me to your point particularly about remote sensing and imagery is how it's being used to create or validate a reality on the ground. I'm trying to think of another example of so rapid amount of information of Russian deployments of armaments and personnel validating the hideous nature of war crimes.
Casey Dreier: You saw in New York Times, they're seeing bodies on the streets using commercial satellite imagery to trace, and then ground-truth images that they're getting from the surface. The role of just that rapid amount of information that was prior only available to space superpowers of that kind of level of ground observation, is now available as you point out to everyone. And imagine including Russia, because some of these are just open systems that share that. Or do they have access to this kind of data?
Mariel Borowitz: I think when it's released publicly and you and I are seeing it, then certainly they're seeing it as well. My sense is that these companies are not selling or releasing data to Russia. Russia has its own reconnaissance systems. It certainly has access to high quality satellite data as well. But I think that's one of the interesting dynamics. Yes, the commercial industry is playing an important role here. They're releasing a lot of data. They're providing a lot of data to Ukraine, but I don't think the situation would be the same if those companies were wanting to provide imagery to Russia. For example, the government has encouraged the sharing with Ukraine. It would not do so.
Casey Dreier: That's an interesting angle though. To think about that its commercial space sector may itself be a national security issue. If, for example, there was just happened to be most of the energy and commercial space or observation coming from China, which is much more sympathetic to Russia right now. Would you be seeing this level of cooperation and sharing this data with either Ukraine or with media or with whomever?
Casey Dreier: That they, in some sense, reflect the political and policy goals as you were pointing out, of their countries in which they're based in. And so it strikes me as that nurturing a commercial space system, not just everything with launch, a distribution of launch opportunities, remote sensing, imagery and communications in a way that reflects the values of one's nation seems to actually be something that's now moved into a national security policy consideration.
Mariel Borowitz: Oh, absolutely. Yeah. The commercial space industry is a strategic industry for the United States. And I think there is a recognition of that. Partly that's why you see all these kind of ITAR and export issues. We know that these are important strategic technologies. And these companies, most of their revenue comes from the US government and from the defense and intelligence sector. They're going to align with the goals of their largest customers just for their regular commercial interest. So I think that's not surprising to see. But I think this has been a great way to make it clear to policy makers, exactly what you're saying that there is this strategic value. I think with the US remote sensing sector, for example, there's been debates over the years about exactly what the limits are placed on the resolution that these companies can provide, how much detail can they put in their imagery that they're going to sell.
Mariel Borowitz: The US has been typically pretty careful about that, essentially putting in place rules that say, "You can sell data that's as good as what's out there on the market." But even though our companies could provide even better than that, the best imagery on the market, they were not allowed to do that based on the licensing they got from the US government. Probably that's had some negative effect on remote sensing companies in the US, and that's always been kind of a balance. Well, you want that industry to be successful because at the end of the day, it's going to benefit you. The US has at least some control over commercial remote sensing that is based in the US. No control over commercial remote sensing based in China. As we're seeing now play out in this conflict, it makes a big difference.
Casey Dreier: Even just who buys and sells the data tells you something about the kind of ethos of the companies themselves and what they're representing. All this starts to get pretty tightly integrated politically. It just strikes me that we're seeing this level of information being really just opened up, or this kind of the whole Biden administration's approach to this has just been sharing as much as possible. But by using commercial data, actually you also then kind of don't have to share US level intelligence of government level space satellite that are, I don't know, orders magnitude better. You probably know better than I do. But significantly better than commercial sensing.
Mariel Borowitz: Well, and this has always been for years recognized as one of the big valuable things about using commercial remote sensing. And you might say, "Okay. The National Reconnaissance Office and National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, they have access to their own classified, reconnaissance satellites, highly capable. Why are they also buying this commercial data?" And I think this is where you're seeing why. One it's volume of data. They can get a lot more if they buy from all these different customers and all these different companies. But they then have that ability to share that data much more easily. You don't have to go through a declassification process.
Mariel Borowitz: And also there is a benefit that we're seeing in terms of trust. I think when you have all these different imagery providers releasing imagery to the public and showing, "Look, it's not just the US government that's saying Russia says they're pulling back. But actually look, they're amassing at the border. Here's multiple commercial providers that can show you an image that backs that up." I think that also has an impact on the trust and the believability of that information. And I think that's one thing the US has done really well. On the information side of dealing with the war, they've really leveraged information well, I think.
Casey Dreier: It brings me back to this idea of these national capabilities. The drive and the lesson maybe being to develop independent national capability. Or in this case, the US stellar commercial space sector has been critical to this openness and sharing information, as you just said, credibility. But there's been very little other competition of sharing that kind of data. Does this drive again nations like China or even Russia to start reinvesting in their whatever you would call a commercial marketplace or broad level of consumer level almost consumption of data, to have their own systems that will be more amenable to their political goals or ethos, or national issues at the moment. And can also provide a counter narrative of data for their interests. Do you see that kind of developing as a consequence of this?
Mariel Borowitz: Yeah. I think we are already seeing that to some extent. China has a rapidly growing remote sensing sector, including commercial remote sensing. Launch as well, they're getting commercial launch developers in China. I think that was already happening, but my sense is that this will accelerate that trend. Because I think there is that awareness, that sector is going to align with national goals.
Casey Dreier: I wonder if we will look back in history books and see this example of kind of the way World War I was the start of 20th century modernity that this conflict said something about where we were globally with our technological capabilities. When we look to that Ukrainians tweeting at a billionaire who deploys his private satellite service as a way for them to avoid jamming of local communication lines. That's almost like a nonsense statement 20 years ago, right? It's just a very telling way I think, in which space and space assets are becoming so critical. And basically providing in a sense, independent.
Casey Dreier: I think Elon even said on Twitter like... I forgot exactly what he said. "You can't jam these things, they'll fly over regardless." Unless you try to shoot them down, which kind of brings us to your other topic that you specialize in which is space sustainability, the ability to use and exist in Earth orbit safely. Last fall, we had a Russian anti-satellite test that destroyed one of their satellites. Create a huge cloud of debris, they had to move the space station. How do you look at that event now in context of the Ukraine invasion? It's related in some ways, and how has that changed this global discussion about space sustainability?
Mariel Borowitz: Yeah. So let me say a couple things, building on your earlier comments. I think we might see this as our first example of the way these commercial space assets play a role in conflict. And I think one of the takeaways as well is not only what the capabilities are and how much value they can add from that perspective, but how complex it makes it. And how much gray area there is in terms of, are these assets as you're saying now, at risk? Could they be attacked? I mean, certainly they're being jammed in some cases.
Mariel Borowitz: That's still an area of uncertainty, and where there's a lot more gray space than we've really had in previous conflicts. That goes right into your question about the meaning of this Russian ASAT and what we might see in the future there. I don't think there's any great answers yet, except that we haven't seen these commercial entities be attacked. At least kinetically. We have seen jamming and we've seen some cyber attacks. But remains to be seen. What will happen in the future?
Mariel Borowitz: I will say with respect to the Russian ASAT in particular, I was really surprised when that happens. Usually I think when you follow these kinds of things closely you could understand both sides. There's clear reasons why something might have happened even if you didn't expect that it would for sure. But with this one, it seemed very odd because there was really no doubt that Russia had ASAT capabilities. They tested them many times in the past just as the US had, all through the early space age and Cold War. And so why, in an era where we're trying to promote space sustainability and Russia was engaging those efforts, why would they carry out a destructive ASAT test?
Mariel Borowitz: The best argument I've heard is that that was specifically tied to plans for Ukraine, and to make it clear that Russia was able and willing to carry out that kind of attack. And the fact that they would do that in peace time and create debris that went in important orbits and orbits where we have, the ISS and the Chinese space station, that certainly they'd be willing to do that in the event of a conflict. Of course, we haven't seen them actually have any kind of attacks, kinetic attacks against space assets related to the Ukrainian conflict. And partly it may be that it's simpler and more below the line in some sense. It stays in this gray area if you're carrying out cyber attacks, for example. Or you're doing jamming. And so I think that, again, circles back to this area, to this issue of just having so much gray area. How do you respond to those types of things?
Casey Dreier: You were talking about earlier how so many things that have just been theoretical are now starting to be tested in reality. ASAT test remained a very provocative and high profile way to do something... In a sense, to destroy satellite capabilities versus these less, in a sense, less physical like our brains. And just frankly, less consequential, right? It's the debris cloud generated by these things that are just truly disastrous.
Casey Dreier: However, this connection to Ukraine is basically the sabre-rattling, I guess is one way to describe. It's like, "Look what we can do. Don't mess with our assets when we're about to do something you don't like." Does remind us that we have really no structure around this or global legal structure around this. As you said, it's just all of these gray areas. What does the Outer Space Treaty really say about this? To the degree, it says anything. And how much of every other kind of approach to space sustainability is enshrined in law, if any?
Mariel Borowitz: In terms of international treaties, the Outer Space Treaty is the main one that applies here. It says things like every nation has access to space for peaceful purposes. It prohibits harmful interference with other people's satellites. But while I think they're important, these clauses that are included here, they're relatively vague. For example, one of the things that they don't address is if you're going to be maneuvering satellites around an orbit, do you have to provide that information to anyone in advance? How close to other nation satellites can you maneuver without it being a safety risk or being interpreted as threatening? So those types of activities are really not governed by any agreement right now.
Mariel Borowitz: There was an effort a few years ago in the United Nations, in the Committee on the Peaceful Uses for Outer Space to develop long term sustainability guidelines. And I think those also put together some useful agreements. If you read through them, they're still relatively basic. A lot about information sharing, making sure, trying to be clear with other nations what your goals are, what activities you're undertaking. But I think that was a good start. And then the most recent thing that seemed very promising was this effort again within the auspices of the United Nations, to develop norms of behavior in outer space. So what does it mean to be a responsible actor in space.
Mariel Borowitz: I think that looked like it was going to be a good international venue to really start pinning down some of these things that we could all agree on. And that was set to meet, I believe, shortly before the invasion of Ukraine. And so like many other things, it really got derailed by that. I believe they are still going to hold a meeting for that effort. I think in actually just a few days here. When you can't engage Russia on these issues and there's still a major space player, it's not clear to me how meaningful the results of that will be.
Casey Dreier: I think that's kind of where I'm going with this line of questioning which was, we have very vague international treaties. Most of the subsequent work has been, as you say, norms. Just people behaving well for the sake of behaving well and projection of national competence on the global stage. But very few things controlling that, right? It's all at the behest of the individual nation. Can you have an effective set of global norms if you suddenly have a pariah state, the way that Russia has become for a lot of people? Does that completely undo this or does it negate it completely? What path forward is there? Because if they then start to follow these without being part of that discussion, it seems very unlikely that they would choose to do that because Russia considers itself at a high level player in the world stage.
Mariel Borowitz: I think right now we have norms of behavior on a very kind of vague level. Nobody has attacked anyone else's space asset up until now, for example. But we don't have that detailed level of agreement where we'd actually say, "Hey, if you come within one kilometer of someone else's satellite, that's going to be interpreted as irresponsible, that your potential of creating a collision is too high." We don't have agreement on that kind of thing right now. And I think to get to that level of agreement, you have to have these discussions.
Mariel Borowitz: I think we could come to that level of agreement with our allies, but it's not as meaningful. I think the ones where you really want to be sure we're on the same page about what's aggressive behavior and what's just technology demonstration and is fine, that's Russia and that's China. And so before the war in Ukraine, I mentioned earlier, the US and Russia were engaging in these bilateral discussions and I think that was a really smart idea.
Mariel Borowitz: We want to have some level of transparency and understanding about how we interpret these actions so that you don't have misinterpretations and accidents that's not good for anybody. But I think right now, those bilateral conversations are off the table. It's not clear to what degree Russia will engage in the multilateral discussions either. And I think without them we can still get something and maybe they'll be value there, but I think it'll be much better if we could have more full cooperation.
Casey Dreier: You wrote in a recent paper about this, a related challenge that there's this inherent dual use function of a lot of emergent space technologies. In this paper, you highlighted robotic servicing. So getting really close and docking with, or doing... You just go a little faster, and suddenly you're a kinetic impactor and you've destroyed this spacecraft. In the paper you highlight a couple situations where a Russian satellite in GEO was hopping around and getting very close but not super close, but kind of showing that it could get closer if it wanted to, to this point.
Casey Dreier: And that was a really interesting perspective to me is like, if there's no clear line of what escalation is, if everyone doesn't agree again about what's acceptable versus very inflammatory kind of behavior, you can very easily as you point out, this can spiral a lot of control. So the fact that we don't even have clear, agreed layers of what accounts for this seems to be troubling. Particularly in the situation and now almost potentially regressing as a consequence of this war, even though it's becoming in a sense far more pertinent to everything that we're talking about here.
Casey Dreier: I don't know what's the solution for that. I don't know how to even phrase this. It just seems troubling that I don't want to necessarily leave it on just that fact. I mean, space always has been... Parts of it have always been like this Janus-like situation of rockets are just missiles that don't aim downwards. There's always been this dual use part of it. So how do you approach something like this? Or is it just going to be something we model through?
Mariel Borowitz: Yeah. I think this is a good example of the fact that we need to have engagement. You can't just solve it with technology. You can't just solve it unilaterally. So we have these capabilities that you're mentioning this rendezvous in proximity operations. For example, where Russia, China, and the US have all demonstrated this capability in geostationary orbit where they can maneuver around that orbit and place themselves next to other satellites. And both Russia and the US have done this where they've placed their satellites near foreign satellites, for example, without the permission of the satellite they're getting near.
Mariel Borowitz: The US feels very uneasy about Russia doing this and has made complaints. Russia has essentially responded that they're not breaking any rules. There's nothing that says you can't do this, and they're just conducting experiments and that's it. And at the same time, the US has done somewhat similar activities, maneuvering around with our GSAP satellites, maneuvering around geostationary orbit. And whereas we talk about that activity as being a space situational awareness activity, trying to monitor debris and orbit and these satellites are contributing to that mission, that's not the way Russia is interpreting that activity.
Mariel Borowitz: And so you can see on both sides, this lack of trust and a kind of jumping to the worst interpretation of what this might be. That certainly they're testing a weapon, for example, rather than whatever they say they're doing on the surface. You can't really solve that problem without engaging with these other actors and trying to come up with ways to build trust, to provide transparency. We have these technologies. The technologies are moving forward. We have to find a way to engage on the international level and make sure that our international engagement and our policy and norms that those are also advancing along at the same time.
Casey Dreier: Kamala Harris said the other week that the US will now unilaterally stop doing a kinetic ASAT. I forget if it was tests or just in general that the United States would just not do this in an effort to deescalate some of these discussions and also to set this kind of standard of normative behavior. Again, when you have these types of broader geopolitical context, is it possible to set that type of behavior unilaterally without, as you point out, a solid working foundation? Where do you see the consequences or path forward from this announcement on the US side going?
Mariel Borowitz: I think it was a great move, and one that maybe could have even happened sooner. I think we saw this progression. The Russian ASAT happened most recently. But India carried out an ASAT, China number of years before that. From the US perspective, there isn't a reason for us to carry out ASAT. We've done them in the past, it's clear the US has that capability. There's really not a need to demonstrate it again, and especially in creating debris. That really harms the US more than any other entity because we're the most reliant on space. We have the most stuff in space. And so I think for the US to say, "Okay, we're going to come out and say clearly, no more debris-creating ASAT test. That is a bad thing to do."
Mariel Borowitz: Going back to this, what's a responsible actor in space? That is not responsible. Don't create debris in space on purpose. I think that's a good thing for the US to do. The debate is whether it's best to do that unilaterally, and kind of set the example and hope that others will follow suit. Or the US also could have tried to develop that as a multilateral agreement to get others to sign on at the same time. And I don't know. There's pros and cons to both, but I think there's certainly benefits to getting it done now. And the sooner the better in setting that example in getting the ball rolling on, "Here's what it looks like to be responsible in space."
Casey Dreier: Well, looking forward, it's impossible. Obviously there's a lot of dynamic stuff in play. But from your expert position in your expert community, what are the topics you're going to be following most closely in terms of how this begins to develop? And what are you looking for, if anything, either deviations from expectations or expectations that you need to see fulfilled?
Mariel Borowitz: In terms of space sustainability?
Casey Dreier: Space sustainability, but also from this conflict. The themes that we've been talking about in terms of how space is being used, how cooperation will go forward or not. Basically, do you see things falling out of, consequences in space behavior that you think will be able to tie back to this moment?
Mariel Borowitz: I'll certainly be continuing to watch closely how the space sector is involved in the conflict in Ukraine, because so many things that were theoretical were now seeing play out in reality. I think there is a process of learning that's happening as well, what's valuable, what's not, where commercial can play a role. I see a lot of new companies potentially getting off the ground, realizing different needs that might be out there. You see existing companies expanding the things that they're providing, either the types of information, the types of analysis.
Mariel Borowitz: And I think we've only started to scratch the surface on that. So I think there'll be interesting evolution in terms of how that house space technology is used. Even though right now we've seen jamming and cyber attacks, and nothing really catastrophic in terms of the attacks on space assets. I don't think there's a guarantee that that's going to continue in the future. I'm also cautiously watching that element as well and how that plays out and what Russia decides to do in the future. I think all of that could certainly be evolving, so I'll be watching that.
Mariel Borowitz: In terms of space sustainability and how do we move forward on these areas. I think there is a lot that the US can do working unilaterally and working with its allies. And I think that might be some of the near term areas that we have to focus on, because there are things like improving Space Situational Awareness. And this whole transition that's happening in the US right now from Space Situational Awareness really being managed by the Department of Defense, and now switching over to potentially the Department of Commerce which should really open up the ability of the US to work with commercial entities, to work with other countries and to improve our ability to see what's up there and avoid at least the accidental kind of collisions.
Mariel Borowitz: So I think there really is a lot that can be done that's going to improve space sustainability that the US can do with its allies. And then I hope at some point we can get back to these international agreements on norms of behavior and things that would deal with, not just accidental damage caused in space, but avoiding any kind of purposeful harm that could happen there as well.
Casey Dreier: Well, as we follow that, we will make sure to ask you again in the future. So that was Dr. Mariel Borowitz, Associate Professor at the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs at Georgia Tech. Thank you so much for joining us today, really fascinating discussion, and I appreciate your time.
Mariel Borowitz: Thank you for having me.
Mat Kaplan: Casey Dreier of The Planetary Society talking with Mariel Borowitz. A fascinating conversation. Casey, once again, thank you so much for that. And thank you, Mariel. That pretty much closes out this anniversary edition of the Space Policy Edition.
Casey Dreier: Yeah, this is great, Mat. As always, a joy to do this with you and to learn all these great things about space policy. There's so much more to talk about in the future. Hope to keep doing these.
Mat Kaplan: I sure plan to. And we hope that you will continue to join us every first Friday. Almost every first Friday. Sometimes we push it back a little bit. Of course, every week you can tune into Planetary Radio and catch Casey periodically there as well with the shorter updates. The next Space Policy Edition though, you can expect on the first Friday in the month of June 2022.
Mat Kaplan: Plenty of time between now and then for you to visit planetary.org/join and stand behind this show, stand behind all of the great work that Casey is doing with Brendan Curry in Washington, and all of our colleagues at The Planetary Society. We hope that you will join us. Again, thank you and happy anniversary, Casey. He is Chief Advocate for The Planetary Society, Senior Space Policy Adviser. I'm the host of Planetary Radio. Ad astra.