Technology Governance scholar Dr. Nikita Chiu in April joined the Innovation Academy to lead research on innovation and impact. An expert on space sustainability, Dr Chiu recently spoke with Dr. Rob Doubleday–Director of the Cambridge Centre for Science and Policy–in a podcast on the topic of human interactions with extreme environments. Dr. Chiu highlighted the pressure that the orbital environment currently faces given the explosion of space activities in the past years.

The satellite infrastructure is critical to the smooth operations of daily socio-economic activities. From weather forecast to satellite navigation, satellites in orbits play an invisible but integral role in enabling communications, climate change modelling, and the expansion of the digital economy. As more and more private actors (e.g. SpaceX) entered the space sector, there is an imminent need for present and future space activities to be internationally co-ordinated. Failure to do so could lead to catastrophic events that undermine space sustainability, resulting in interruptions of activities on earth as a consequence of scenarios such as frequency interference and space debris collision.

Dr. Chiu argued that challenges posed by the growing accumulation of space debris should be tackled as a sustainability issue rather than a problem unique to Outer Space. This is not only because the space infrastructure plays a critical role in combating environmental problems, but also that it is essentially a question about the sharing of global common resources. As such, the space debris problem needs to be resolved in tandem with other global challenges (e.g. climate change, plastic pollution in the ocean), rather than in silos.

In a time of rapid technological advances, future leaders not only need to be able to anticipate the next technology breakthrough, but also identify and address potential challenges associated with their increasing commercialization. With the vision of strengthening innovation in education, Dr. Chiu hopes to stimulate the next generation of leaders to think creatively about emerging global challenges, and to equip them with the skills necessary in an era of technological transformation.


Hosted by the Centre for Science and Policy in Cambridge, Dr. Chiu contributed alongside leading technology experts including Dr. Graham Turnock, the Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency, in the 6-part mini-series exploring science and policy questions in deep oceans, space, and the Antarctic. You can access the podcast here: