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Saturday, 28 February 2009

Debris in space.

When reading this arstechnica article it came as no surprise to learn of the inherent dangers of space  debris. Caused by mainly low orbital satellites, both some still in use and some no longer in use, but both types just floating free around our fragile Earth. NASA probably knows but your average Joe, of which I am one, probably does not, but the questions remain such as, what unknown damage is this space flotsam and jetsam creating for our Earth orbital spin and axis?

It is bad enough to know that the Earths low orbital space area is littered with objects, not just functional and defunct satellites, created after some 50 years since Man first transversed the problems of getting objects to fly outside of Earths atmosphere without having to wonder what problems these things can, and possibly will, cause for us in years to come. What, for example, would be the result of a collision in this area of several satellites at the same time? Would such a thing simply create yet more space debris making life evermore difficult for future space travelers or is it beyond the realms of possibilities that such a thing could cause the Earth to tilt on its axis one way or the other thereby possibly wiping out everything on Earth?

Other questions that should be asked is why after all the years of space travel have we not found a way to enter this area in space and simply hover up all the space junk? I am aware of the inherant dangers of grabbing such fast flying objects can create not to mention the docking of such items but we can do it with the space station so why not for a space refuse collector? I get the feeling that even though we humans have a space station of sorts out in space but we cannot seem to build a simple (yes, I know it is not as simple as just saying it but given what NASA and other space entities such as Russia's version of NASA and even China's flavour know about such things it cannot be that difficult for them) craft that can enter this cluttered area and effectively clean it up of all, if not all then most, space debris. This could then be expanded to cover areas beyond this particularly cluttered area.

Over the years since Man first ventured into space all manner of satellites have been dispatched and it would appear very little thought was given to the problems we have now in this area. Or maybe there was but the warnings were suppressed or simply ignored, whatever the reasons for being in the situation we now find ourselves the current situation is only going to get worse if the worlds space  efforts do not combine to create a better solution than the one touted in the above article. And who knows what dangers lay ahead not just for satellites, defunct or otherwise, but for the Earth itself as the more dense the debris gets the less light we will take in and the less light we take in the more living things will die.

Time for the world's space agencies to find a better solution than one that mimics air traffic control systems.

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