People unaware and concerned when it comes to space, Inmarsat reveals

Rajeev Suri, Chief Executive Officer at Inmarsat

The world is largely unaware of key activities in space, with Gen-Z twice as likely to associate space with aliens, Star Wars and billionaires like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos than older generations, according to the representative survey of global consumer attitudes towards space, unveiled by Inmarsat, a stakeholder in global, mobile satellite communications.

What were the findings of Inmarsat’s study?

The report, What on Earth is the value of space, found that those aged 65 and above, who were teenagers when humans first walked on the Moon, are more optimistic and hopeful than Gen-Z. They are more likely to associate space with research and exploration, rockets, and satellites – with their understanding of space more rooted in science than science-fiction.

What do people understand by the term space?

23% said they feel space exploration is ‘important’. 46% consider satellites, while 37% think of expeditions to the Moon and Mars, 21% think of aliens, and almost 1 in 10 think of Star Wars (9%). Fewer than 1 in 10 people globally think of communications and connectivity.

This focus on Hollywood rather than Halley’s Comet fuels how respondents feel about space. Only a third of people feel ‘excited’ about space (34%), while 18% feel nervous – just 38% wish they knew more about ‘up there’. 24% feel ‘overwhelmed’ by space, which comes as no real surprise with films like Don’t Look Up recently capturing the public consciousness.

What are people’s major concerns?

People’s ambitions for space centre around solving some of our major challenges on Earth – finding energy sources, essential resources, and helping solve climate change. However, this does not yet counteract our fears – as 97% of the global population feel space is a threat.

This concern is reflected in the fact that 1 in 9 people surveyed are ‘terrified’ of what could happen in space – with space junk and collisions in orbit (47%), pollution (39%), and damaging the Earth’s atmosphere (35%) seen as the top threats. Older people are more worried about space junk, while younger generations fear the environmental impact most. It is clear that the positive impact of space is not being appreciated fully by the public.

Recent space industry entrants are more optimistic about what space offers. Close to half of respondents in China believe space can provide a new source for essential resources versus a third globally, while 6 in 10 South Koreans think space can be the key to new energy sources, while half of those polled in the UAE see space as a way to help solve climate change.

What is Aussie landscape like?

49% of Aussies are concerned about space junk and collisions in space; 34% fear space activity damaging the Earth’s atmosphere and 44% worry we may end up polluting space.

In Australia, only one in ten (10%) respondents is interested in working in the space industry (vs. 14% globally); however, 36% are hopeful about the possibilities of space (vs. 32% globally), 30% wish they knew more about space (versus 38% globally), and 31% are excited about what could possibly happen in space, close to the global average of 34%.

What were the executive’s thoughts on the study?

Rajeev Suri, CEO of Inmarsat, commented: “This report should be a wake-up call for our industry. Space appears to be underappreciated and misunderstood in the real-world. In many respects, the knowledge we possess as a society is inaccurate and incomplete.”

“Space can enable a better way of living for all on Earth, but public support will make or break this vital contribution to a better future. Space needs a new narrative, and it is time for us to define its value to the world. Global communities are united by their fear of uncontrolled satellite debris, falling asteroids and environmental damage,” Rajeev further commented.

“Having come so far, we cannot afford to destroy the gift of space through poor stewardship, fear, ignorance or inaction. Sustainability on Earth cannot exist without sustainability in space. Responsible space exploration and stricter regulation is a must.”