Moriba Jah is an astrodynamicist and space environmentalist laying the foundation for a safe, prosperous, and sustainable near-Earth space environment. Jah draws on his expertise in astrodynamics and statistical orbit determination to create transparent and collaborative solutions for improving oversight of Earth’s orbital spheres.
Jah and co-authors have proposed novel statistical strategies for determining more precise admissible regions (the possible orbits an object can take). He and colleagues have also developed a system for aggregating various independent data sources into a complete catalog of space objects. ASTRIAGraph and Wayfinder (http://www.privateer.com), a new version designed for use by the public, are online visualization tools, freely available to all, that integrate information from governments, industry, and other researchers. The site reveals the frequent inconsistencies across different sources of data providing space objects’ identity, location, and size. Machine learning techniques are used to determine when data from multiple sources refer to the same object. Combining these data sets allows for a more comprehensive assessment of the objects in Earth’s orbit and who is liable for them. Researchers and policymakers can assess and verify that all parties involved abide by space-related policy, such as the United Nations Convention on Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space. In addition, the combined observational measurements improve estimates of orbital paths.
Jah’s work also extends to policy guidance and public education about how to improve collaboration across space-faring nations and entities. In op-eds, podcasts, and government testimonies, he is a persuasive advocate for “space environmentalism,” a framework for treating Earth’s orbit as a finite natural resource. Like other natural resources, it should be governed by norms of behavior, transparent information sharing, and broad regulations in the service of sustainability and equitable international access. Jah proposes enacting policies to create a circular space economy; such regulations could prevent pollution in the form of single-use satellites and incentivize companies to reuse satellites rather than abandon them. Through his transdisciplinary approach and vision of space as an invaluable global resource, Jah facilitates greater understanding of the environmental challenges arising from human use of Earth’s orbital spheres.
Jah is a MacArthur Fellow, TED Fellow, and National Geographic Explorer, amongst many other things…