Joe Mascaro is a tropical ecologist and Director, Science Strategy & Programs at Planet, a public benefit corporation that operates the largest fleet of Earth-imaging satellites. Joe works with scientists, universities and space agencies to utilize Planet’s unprecedented imaging resources to enhance primary research and education, improve forest monitoring and conservation, expand food security, and promote ecological resilience for some of the world’s most vulnerable communities.
Joe discusses transfer of innovations from one segment to another; these “exaptations” in technology occur when an innovation, designed to solve a problem, becomes important in solving a different problem. Originally defined in the context of evolutionary biology, exaptation may be one of the most important outcomes of space exploration and space-based Earth observation science. In the effort to image the whole Earth every day, for example, Planet innovated novel solutions to Earth imaging payloads, which have had important follow on effects in Earth science that were not anticipated—including improving our understanding of hydrology, cryosphere dynamics and geomorphology. These examples are likely the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Farer-flung examples from the human spaceflight industry are also discussed.