Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Rendering of planet Earth surrounded by orbital debris. Courtesy of NASA
What is the environmental impact of commercial space exploration? 

Sixty-five years ago, one satellite orbited Earth. Today, that number has risen to more than 20,000. 
As private space exploration surges, so do new kinds of pollution. Light trails from hundreds of satellite “constellations” streak across sensitive astronomical imagery. Debris from defunct or destroyed satellites that remain in orbit pose collision risks to other satellites—commercial, civil, and military, not to mention orbiting space telescopes. Large chunks of debris that de-orbit do so uncontrollably, putting Earth’s surface at risk. 
How do we balance the needs of industry and the needs of science?  How do we create a sustainable space exploration industry? 
Join Neil deGrasse Tyson, the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium, and our panel of experts representing various sectors on this issue for a dynamic discussion about the environmental implications of the private space exploration era. 


Colonel Scott Brodeur
Director, National Space Defense Center and Director of Operations, Joint Task Force Space Defense, United States Space Command

Moriba K. Jah
Associate Professor of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics, University of Texas at Austin 

Therese Jones
Senior Director of Policy for the Satellite Industry Association 

Meredith Rawls
Research Scientist, Vera C. Rubin Observatory Data Management 

Aparna Venkatesan
Professor of Physics and Astronomy at the University of San Francisco 

Connie Walker
Scientist at National Science Foundation's National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory 

How to Watch

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Past Debates

See videos of 2010-2020 Asimov Debates.

The late Dr. Isaac Asimov, one of the most prolific and influential authors of our time, was a dear friend and supporter of the American Museum of Natural History. In his memory, the Hayden Planetarium is honored to host the annual Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate—generously endowed by relatives, friends, and admirers of Isaac Asimov and his work—bringing the finest minds in the world to the Museum each year to debate pressing questions on the frontier of scientific discovery. Proceeds from ticket sales of the Isaac Asimov Memorial Debates benefit the scientific and educational programs of the Hayden Planetarium.