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Space Smash


55 minutes

Orbital debris is the stuff of nightmares for astronauts. And with good reason – the amount of rubbish circling the Earth has risen exponentially over the last twenty years as space exploration has grown and increasing numbers of satellites are launched.

In 2009, two satellites collided creating thousands of new pieces of debris and sending them into space at phenomenal speeds. This kind of collision could cause a runaway chain reaction, predicted by NASA scientist, Don Kessler in which each collision generates new debris and therefore further collisions.

Everyone involved in space exploration and exploitation is now obliged to track each individual piece of trash circling the Earth in order to move working satellites if they lie in the path of danger. But with around 20,000 catalogued objects in Low Earth Orbit, the risk of collisions is high. Up until recently, little effort has been made to minimize this rubbish and each piece poses a serious threat for the functioning of our satellites and by extension, our activities on Earth.

The time has come to take out the trash. Throughout the world, engineers are coming up with ingenious methods to collect space’s garbage and test their projects: from electro-magnetic cables in Japan, pulverizing lasers in Australia, nets and harpoons in Europe and gas pulverizing rockets in the USA. Star wars is a long way off … but the war on waste has been declared.

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