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Space Diplomacy Lab

A new era of human space activity is unfolding every day before our eyes.  An increasing number of nation-states and private sector actors are now capable of deploying a wide array of space technologies to low Earth orbit and beyond. The immense economic, scientific, and societal potential of today’s space renaissance has unlocked fresh opportunities for unprecedented innovation and international strategic cooperation beyond Earth’s atmosphere.  But just like the turbulent nature of international affairs here on Earth, the very human proclivity to take actions endangering the promise of these giant leaps off our planet requires some form of Anticipatory Diplomacy. Without urgent risk mitigation to address a growing list of space security and regulatory challenges facing the global community, humanity’s burgeoning off-planet future could be grounded before it truly blasts off.

To help address these emerging challenges, the Duke University Rethinking Diplomacy Program (RDP) has established a Space Diplomacy Lab (SDL). The core objective of the SDL is to provide a forum to convene a diverse, multidisciplinary set of academics, policymakers, and diplomatic practitioners from the fields of space science and technology, national security, and international diplomacy to develop cross-cutting policy proposals and solutions to mitigate risks and ensure the promise of a secure and sustainable future of humanity in space.

SDL experts regularly publish analysis and host seminar series focused on exploring diplomatic strategies to build out vital regulatory and behavioral norms in low-Earth orbit, translunar space, and beyond. Just some of the questions the SDL will work to address include:

  • What path should governments take to strengthen international conventions on the peaceful use of outer space beyond the 1967 Outer Space Treaty in order to reduce the risk of unintended national security provocations stemming from the rapid development of anti-satellite and on-orbit space weapons systems worldwide?  
  • How can the international community develop technologies and norms to mitigate and reverse the proliferation of space debris in low-Earth orbit?
  • What diplomatic pathways can the international community take to develop and enforce rigorous regulatory regimes for the growing set of commercial actors and services operating in low-Earth orbit, as well as for planned future lunar and deep-space extractive industries?
  • How to address the challenges of bridging competing priorities between international civil space agencies, military space programs, and private sector actors, and the role that scientists and technologists can play to directly support the work of diplomats focused on global space issues?

With space security challenges and international disputes regularly grabbing headlines, SDL experts work to explain the technical, geopolitical, and geoeconomic relevance of these space-related contingencies to policy leaders, journalists, and the interested public. Moreover, the SDL strives to contextualize space issues from the daily news cycle in terms of long-term, anticipatory diplomatic strategies aimed at achieving confidence-building measures needed to avoid future conflict in space.

Meet our team

Giovanni Zanalda headshot

Dr. Giovanni Zanalda (Duke University)

Director, Rethinking Diplomacy Program, Co-founder, Space Diplomacy Lab


Anna Linvill headshot

Anna Linvill (Duke University)

Coordinator, Rethinking Diplomacy Program, Space Diplomacy Lab

Anna Linvill is an Air Force Veteran and former Arabic cryptologic linguist with a Master’s degree in International Relations from The University of Oklahoma.


Black and white photo Dr. Benjamin Schmitt

Dr. Benjamin L. Schmitt (University of Pennsylvania)

Co-founder, Space Diplomacy Lab, Senior Fellow, Rethinking Diplomacy Program

Dr. Benjamin L. Schmitt holds a joint academic appointment at the University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Physics and Astronomy, and the Kleinman Center for Energy Policy.

Ambassador W. Robert Pearson (Duke University)

Senior Fellow, Rethinking Diplomacy Program, Space Diplomacy Lab

Ambassador W. Robert Pearson, is a retired professional foreign service officer who served as U.S. ambassador to Turkey from 2000 to 2003 and was director general of the U.S. Foreign Service from 2003 to 2006.

Black and white image of Dr. Lyndsey Gray in front of statue

Dr. Lyndsey Gray (AAAS Fellow)

Affiliated Fellow, Space Diplomacy Lab

Lyndsey Gray PhD MSPH, is a global health researcher, microbiologist, and infectious disease epidemiologist. She is currently an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science, Technology, and Policy Fellow working in the U.S. Department of State through CRDF Global.

Britt Lundgren headshot

Dr. Britt Lundgren (UNC Asheville)

Affiliated Fellow, Space Diplomacy Lab

Dr. Britt Lundgren is an associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy at UNC at Asheville, where her research specializes in studies of galaxy evolution–the intergalactic medium, and large-scale structure in the Universe.

black and white photo of Harrison Schreiber

Harrison Schreiber (Duke University)

Graduate Fellow, Space Diplomacy Lab

Harrison Schreiber is pursuing a Master’s in Public Policy at Duke University. He is focused on the complexities of space exploration policy.

Becky Ball (Duke University)

Student Fellow, Space Diplomacy Lab

Becky Ball is a Karsh International Scholar at Duke University and President of Duke Students for the Exploration and Development of Space. In her home country, the UK, she is a Prospero Space Fellow. Becky is particularly interested in space sustainability and education.