Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The race to clutter space

Space debris is trash, junk or garbage. It includes derelict spacecraft, pieces of launch vehicles, remains from explosions, rocket motors, bolts, defunct satellites and fragments from any of the above. Little pieces can mean big problems in space. They travel 30 times faster than a commercial jet aircraft. A fragment as small as 1 centimeter can significantly damage an operational satellite in orbit. Since debris can stay in orbit for decades, it accumulates around Earth in what could be likened to a space mine field. There are currently 150 million pieces of orbital debris at all altitudes in space, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. Satellites provide many services to those on land, including television, cell phone and GPS signals, weather forecasting, global environment monitoring, and views of our solar system. Damage can result in loss of signals and valuable information. A 2006 study by NASA estimates that large debris will increase by nearly 40 percent over the next 200 years, and the number of fragments will triple, even assuming no further objects are launched. As space debris accumulates around Earth, portions of space and entire orbital paths may become too dangerous and thus off-limits. “Once you put debris (in space), the lifetime can be so long that you are taking a large band of space and reducing utility,” said David Wright, co-director and senior scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Maybe one day when spacetravelling gets a lot cheaper. They can recycle all the space debris