With space labs, astronaut gloves and even a toothbrush floating in space, is there no limits to where we’ve flung our junk?
Thirty-four years ago the charred remains of a spaceship fell to earth. The spaceship was named Skylab and it was the last orbiting remnant of
Skylab was massive, at launch it was already nearly as big as the fully completed
Space Junk Cost and Liability
Under international agreement, space-faring countries are liable for the damage caused by their junk and debris so
Peeing in our water bowl
The pattern of human pollution is all too predictable. Our middens become mountains. Earth's landscapes, lakes, rivers and oceans become our dumps. Like a mad dog we pee in our own bowl and only notice a problem when civilization’s belly begins to ache from the stench. Humans eventually polluted earth’s seven great continents, its atmosphere and its oceans. So it shouldn't surprise anyone that we're beginning to fill space with trash.
Space is big but…
Space is big, but the amount of space in useful earth orbits is relatively small. Astronauts typically orbit at altitudes between 150 and 300 miles above sea level, no more than the distance between
The resulting chain-reaction is known as Kessler's syndrome and is a plot complication in the newly released film Gravity. The resulting ring of debris may be beautiful but it could make space travel too risky and set back the advances in space technology since 1959. Imagine a world without satellite TV, GPS navigation, satellite weather forecasts and the Internet.
What can be done to remove space junk?
There are strategies for reducing the dangers of space junk but the the first order of business is tracking it. America's NORAD is one of the agencies tasked with this space traffic control. People at NORAD keep track of thousands of orbiting objects including everything from rocket fuel tanks to an astronaut's lost glove and toothbrush. The ESA,
We don't yet have a solution for removing smaller items but engineers have suggested everything from sailing space robots to aerogels and lasers. It's clearly an environmental problem we will have to deal with very soon.
Public domain images of Skylab, orbiting objects, and space debris in Saudi Arabia via
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