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NASA: Space Debris a Problem Equivalent to Climate Change

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posted on Apr, 25 2013 @ 06:33 PM

Governments must start working urgently to remove orbital debris, which could become a catastrophic problem for satellites a few decades from now, a space science conference heard on Thursday.

Since 1978, the total of junk items whizzing around the planet has tripled, said Heiner Klinkrad, head of the European Space Agency's Space Debris Office.

"There is a wide and strong expert consensus on the pressing need to act now to begin debris removal activities," he said in an ESA press release at the end of a four-day conference in Darmstadt, Germany.

"Our understanding of the growing space debris problem can be compared with our understanding of the need to address Earth's changing climate some 20 years ago," he said.


Here is a graphical representation of the problem:

The problem has been increasing over the last 50 years of space exploration, but has intensified exponentially over the last 6 years since China shot up a weather satellite as part of a weapons test in 2007.

Here is an article that was published in 2011 about the problem on SOURCE

The former article presents several solutions that have been presented:

The Darmstadt conference brought together more than 350 experts from Europe, North America and Asia, including specialists from national space agencies and industry.

They heard proposals aimed at removing the largest chunks of debris out of orbit at the rate of five to 10 items per year.

These pieces could be nudged into a death plunge in the atmosphere by netting or harpooning them from a robot vessel or bombarded by an ion cannon to deflect them onto a new course.

Another idea is to attach a "solar sail" to large items of debris that would be gently driven by the solar wind -- the particles blasted out by the Sun.

I don't think any of these ideas is a viable solution.

Here is another from an oblique vantage point:

NASA Official Space Debris Website

We have a lot of very intelligent people here on ATS. I would like to hear what ideas you may have to clean up the mess...

posted on Apr, 25 2013 @ 06:38 PM
We should build robot ships to collect "over years" and move that stuff to the moon for later use. It is all refined metals that can be melted and used later on a moon colony.

posted on Apr, 25 2013 @ 07:18 PM
With our current technology there is really only one solution...

Quit making MORE space debris.

There is no viable means of chasing down individual chunks of debris in space. Each piece has its
own trajectory, its own velocity and it own unique orbit.

posted on Apr, 25 2013 @ 07:29 PM
Most of this debris is tiny, like a single bolt, or a flake of paint. This is where the problem lies, though its tiny, it can be very damaging given the speed at which it travels. It cannot be seen until it hits something which means trying to get hold of it is a huge task.

The larger bits, like old satellites is pretty easy to get hold of in comparison.

I dont have an answer as to how to clear it, neither do the best minds on the planet it would seem. You cant suck it up, it would take hundreds of years. You cant shoot it out of orbit as that causes more problems.

Maybe we could just stop putting more stuff up there until the situation of the space junk can be cured?

posted on Apr, 25 2013 @ 07:48 PM

Originally posted by Xeven
We should build robot ships to collect "over years" and move that stuff to the moon for later use. It is all refined metals that can be melted and used later on a moon colony.

That's a great idea. When you think about it space junk is pretty valuable - titanium, composites, plenty of gold and expensive beryllium alloys - plus there's the cost saving of getting it all up there.

So there's are already some of our best aerospace materials in orbit, this would be the ultimate recycling!

posted on Apr, 25 2013 @ 07:56 PM
Giant magnets!

Start sending up giant satellte magnets and let them act like pac man

Chomp chomp chomp when its full set a course for the sun.

Of course don't think alloys are magnetic, but people get the idea.

either that or Earth based solid state lasers!

Ok sorry outside of launching a nuke to oblierate space debris fresh out of useful ideas.

posted on Apr, 25 2013 @ 08:30 PM

Originally posted by neo96
Of course don't think alloys are magnetic, but people get the idea..

Yeah that's the problem, ferromagnetic materials are generally not great aerospace materials - so most of it is stuff like titanium, aluminum, engineering ceramics, composites, polymers etc. Valuable, but not uniform enough to employ the use of one technique like a magnet - though one of the articles mentions a net, maybe have a net in pac mans belly and you're in business.

edit on 25/4/13 by polarwarrior because: (no reason given)

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