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Home » How Satellites Help Put Breakfast On The Table: Caryn Schenewerk (Transcript)

How Satellites Help Put Breakfast On The Table: Caryn Schenewerk (Transcript)

Here is the full transcript of Professor Caryn Schenewerk’s talk titled “How Satellites Help Put Breakfast On The Table” at TEDxAustinCollege 2024 conference.

Listen to the audio version here:


The Role of Satellites in Solving Earth’s Problems

Picture a distant satellite in a silent vacuum of space. How might that satellite hold keys to some of Earth’s most pressing problems? What might it possibly have to do with what you had for breakfast this morning? Satellites are deeply connected to our everyday lives.

The most obvious example is GPS, but there’s so very much more. Every day, satellites, thousands of them, circle Earth. Some of those satellites are transmitting data about Earth back to Earth. Now, we all know that Earth has some very serious problems, and understandably, some people think that we should be investing in solving those problems, instead of spending money on space.

I’m here to suggest that space-based capabilities are the keys to understanding and mitigating some of Earth’s most pressing problems. I love solving hard problems, and I’ve learned that good solutions are derived from good data. If you can’t properly characterize the problem, you’re unlikely to achieve the most optimal solution.

People who work in aerospace, building rockets, operating satellite systems, they also love hard problems. Well, I’m not a rocket scientist or a satellite operator, I am a member of a small cadre of space policy and law experts. Now, some people think that legally space is the Wild West.

Space Law and Policy

It’s not. There are laws. That said, there are also really interesting questions, legal questions that arise from space activities. That’s initially what led me to work at SpaceX.

The interesting legal questions that come with things like reusable rockets and how do we foster the US commercial space industry. Today I teach space law. Yes, it is a class. And I advise numerous companies and US government entities. Space-based capabilities are key to understanding some of our hardest problems. But I didn’t understand that when I was an Austin College student.

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