There is a series of less known facts that are stemming from the ongoing development of the space-age crusades that we have not taken into consideration, this is with regards to polluting our world beyond the stratosphere. Yes, space junk has become a program in itself at NASA due to all the officially named ‘Orbital Debris’ that is orbiting around the Earth as an outflow of old rockets and satellites being left up there with no direction once they’ve fulfilled their task, which has been an ongoing process of over 5 decades now.
“Orbital debris is any man-made object in orbit about the Earth which no longer serves a useful purpose.”
The problem is having this great amount of space junk accumulated around the earth with pieces that can be as miniscule as screws, nuts up to the size of cars which are the most threatening pieces toward other satellites or exploration crafts orbiting around the Earth.
Check the numbers for yourself:
“Approximately 19,000 objects larger than 10 cm are known to exist. The estimated population of particles between 1 and 10 cm in diameter is approximately 500,000. The number of particles smaller than 1 cm probably exceeds tens of millions.” http://orbitaldebris.jsc.nasa.gov/faqs.html#1
The Orbital Debris Research at NASA is mainly focused in stopping its current growth rate. There’s been some ideas on how to collect all the space junk within a specific mission having an explorer with a magnetic collector and go around collecting the pieces, though the pieces pose a threat to such spacecraft as well.
We often forget that even the smallest pieces can become a threat to such magnet due to the speed that they are moving at, which makes them potential bullets that can perforate holes in the magnet or the space vehicle itself, which makes this a risky move if one is attempting to collect junk that extends over the 40 000 km2 around the Earth.
Another solution which is simply a matter of ‘time’ would be to let them crash on Earth which is called natural orbital decay (uncontrolled) or in a ‘controlled entry’ which we will explain later on.
Just as anything, we are requiring fast, accurate and cheap solutions. Actually money or ‘budget factors’ remain the limitation to create ways to clean up the space around us.
Therefore because money won’t be a problem, we will only focus on possibly maintaining the ongoing research done by NASA to solve this problem as well as ensuring that any vehicle that is used for spatial explorations is well equipped in terms of being resistant enough to any potential impact by these objects.
This is certainly one of those consequences that are ‘out of reach’ for anyone to take responsibility for in a direct manner – yet we are in essence all responsible due to our use and current benefits obtained from all satellites in this era of communications, whose remaining pieces are the most common found ‘space debris.’
The NASA’S Orbital Debris Research currently focuses on
Modeling: both the debris collectors as well as new satellites that can stand or predict the impact of any of these pieces and be able to remain withstand such impacts.
Measurement: of all the orbital debris to have a clear idea of where such space junk is located and measuring the potential threat they hold toward other satellites.
Protection which is the development of new materials that can stand the impact of such pieces at hypervelocity and reduce all risk of being hit and damaged as that would imply, yes, more space junk if they become irreparable.
Mitigation – as we may understand, this would only mean ‘coping with the problem’ – there is no definitive solution as to how to get rid of such junk and it’s only focusing on the same points described above as well as ‘adopting specific spacecraft attitudes’ and maneuvers to avoid collision with debris.
Reentry is referring to the previously explained point of having this junk returning home by its own ‘natural course’ or by a controlled entry. This is done through ‘lowering the perigee altitude so that atmospheric drag will cause the pieces to enter the earth’s atmosphere more rapidly’ – meaning this would cause their fall in a prompt manner. This is though the one that represents potential danger to Earth as the place where such junk could fall cannot be determined.
Once that such forced re-entry is conducted one has to be subject to physical laws wherein different materials will either ignite upon entering the earth’s atmosphere or manage to remain intact as this is all dependent on the different points of ignition that spacecrafts and satellites are usually made of.
One thing is certain though, this is part of the consequences of disregarding the most basic physical laws of this world such as the gravitational pull that the Earth has which keeps objects surrounding it by ‘nature.’ We only cared about taking missions up there and placing satellites while seeing the universe as something ‘infinitely vast,’ never really pondering about our junk being able to stick on our side.
Therefore, this is actually a point that remains with a great question mark in terms of what will have to be conducted in terms of either managing to clean up the space around the Earth or only generating more band aid solutions as new materials to make resistant satellites and spacecrafts to withstand any form of collision with any of these particles that are all around this world.
From an Earthly perspective, we haven’t even gotten to a point of solving our own garbage problem and we went up in space polluting the area around us, making it almost impossible for any regular person to become part of any cleaning campaign.
As it’s been mentioned throughout the Equal Money System FAQ, this will be a system of prevention and development through the consideration of all the aspects that will be affected at the long run. Within this point, money won’t be a problem to develop new ways of creating/ developing satellites and spacecrafts.
From a common sensical perspective, I’d put a halt to any current ‘exploration’ in outer space for the sake of finding ‘another planet that held life’ which could only drive us to not only be satisfied with polluting the Earth which we are already mercilessly destroying, but also becoming a threat to other planets for the sake of bailing ourselves out from this planet now that we see the consequences of indiscriminate exploitation of resources, as well as following the multiple desires to ‘conquer space.’
This is our creation and this single point of the space debris must be seen as a cautionary tale at the moment so that we focus first on what to be solved Here on Earth. Space preservation is already being discussed which reveals to what extent out human scavenging tactics extend to, we now have enough shit to deal with in outer space.
Investigate the Equal Money System at http://www.equalmoney.org to see how money can become a single point of support for any scientific research or development that could prevent situations like this one in the future.
For more information on space junk: http://orbitaldebris.jsc.nasa.gov/