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Space Science

NASA Warns of Cluttered Space 358

Posted by Zonk
from the watch-out-for-that-tree dept.
Ant wrote to mention a National Geographic article looking at the cluttered nature of Near-Earth Orbit. From the article: "Since the launch of the Soviet Union's Sputnik I satellite in 1957, humans have been generating space junk. The U.S. Space Surveillance Network is currently tracking over 13,000 human-made objects larger than four inches (ten centimeters) in diameter orbiting the Earth. These include both operational spacecraft and debris such as derelict rocket bodies. 'Of the 13,000 objects, over 40 percent came from breakups of both spacecraft and rocket bodies,'Johnson said."
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NASA Warns of Cluttered Space

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  • Human nature? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JonN (895435) * on Friday January 20, 2006 @01:47PM (#14520174) Homepage
    This is another example to the classic problem humans have with looking towards the future. I don't need to list more than a few examples such as our own garbage problem, pollution, and a teenager doing drugs that will ruin the rest of his life. Although it is true that it is sometimes hard to predict what will happen, aren't we at an age (including the last 50 years) where we can somewhat guesstimate an end result?

    Currently, and since its conception, the world's space programs have been based on the model that we can just leave shit we don't need in space. Where were the great minds of NASA to say "Wait...what is going to happen with the rocket parts we are leaving out there." We already knew of gravity and orbits, so the idea that perhaps the stuff would just fly away doesn't seem plausible.

    Us as a race, and us as the most influential countries, must look to the future, and I do see improvements, however many issues as well. We do not live in a one generation world, this is a place which we must sustain indefinately (until we find a new host planet of course).

    • by Locke2005 (849178) on Friday January 20, 2006 @02:03PM (#14520322)
      If the objects are in near-earth orbit, then at some point it the future their orbits should all decay into the earth's atmosphere, at which point they will incinerate themselves. Sounds like a self-correcting problem to me! The only question is: when? Anybody have any guesses on how long it will take all this junk to deorbit if we just leave it alone?
      • by Rei (128717) on Friday January 20, 2006 @02:24PM (#14520503) Homepage
        LEO's pretty fast (hours to years), but for specifics, it really depends on the orbit and the object. A lightweight object with a large cross section at a 180km orbit may take only a day to reenter. A heavy object with a small cross section at 450 km may stay up for a decade.

        Unfortunately (assuming my simulations are correct), orbits tend not to decay circularly. Rather, they tend to become more elliptical until the orbit finally intersects the atmosphere enough that it can't escape. Thus, you can't count on them being in too low of an orbit for you to collide with them as their orbit decays.

        Now, GEO's a whole different story. Things in GEO tend to stay up, but they tend to not stay where you want them to stay ;)
        • My whole team's arguing about this:

          A lightweight object with a large cross section at a 180km orbit may take only a day to reenter. A heavy object with a small cross section at 450 km may stay up for a decade.

          I thought objects fall at the same speed regardless of mass. Didn't some old scientist dude try this out at the Leaning Tower of Pisa?
          • Drag forces (yes, there's drag even at LEO) for objects of the same cross-section would be the same regardless of mass, so a lighter objects would slow faster. So, the rate of decay is proportional to cross-section (larget cross-section->higher drag) and inversely proportional to mass (larger mass->drag force causes smaller acceleration).
    • by reporter (666905) on Friday January 20, 2006 @02:12PM (#14520394) Homepage
      On 2005 August 24, Slashdot reported that Washington is working to develop laser cannons (i.e. "phasers"). [slashdot.org]

      On 2006 January 5, Slashdot reported that Washington is working to develop warp engines [slashdot.org].

      Perhaps, now would be the right time to work on developing shields. They could protect starships from both phasers and space garbage. Is anyone developing shields?

    • One "end" result I can guesstimate is that in the future we will come up with clever solutions to address the problematic side effects of the previous generation of clever solutions.

      See also: Cleaner industry, to address the problematic side effects of heavy industry. Airbags, to address the problematic side effects of high-speed automobiles. GE crops, to address the problematic side effects of a growing and longer-lived population due to better hygiene and medical technology. Antivirus programs, to addr
    • Re:Human nature? (Score:3, Informative)

      by HalfStarted (639977)
      While I don't want to belittle the seriousness of a bolt traveling at 35,000 km/h striking a manned space vehicle, a little perspective is due. A conservative definition of low earth orbit is anything between 100km and 1500km in altitude, simplifying this as a spherical shell that is a volume of space equal to 1.41329782 × 10^19 m^3

      Now even giving the NASA estimates of hundreds of thousands of objects (including those under the 4in size for tracking) a fudge factor of 100 giving on the order 50,000,
  • by TripMaster Monkey (862126) * on Friday January 20, 2006 @01:47PM (#14520177)
    ...that's what the Bishop always said...

    The key to solving this problem is to not look on it as a problem at all, but rather, as an opportunity. 'Space junk' is a bit of a misnomer....the only reason it's considered 'junk' is because no one has figured out a way to collect and reuse it. When they do, the name will change to something more along the lines of 'space salvage'.

    Certainly, some types of space salvage (derelict rockets, satellite fragments, etc.) will have a higher value than others (paint flecks, rocket slag, etc.), but even the lowliest dist speck will have value, for the simple reason that it is there. Considerable time, money, and energy was invested is putting all this 'junk' into orbit, and before we blithely start to squander more time, money, and energy deorbiting them, perhaps we should consider the possibility of putting them to use where they are now.
    • Also, a lot of this stuff has gold in it, being that it is the most reflective material on earth, it is most often used in sheets to reflect solar radiation. I know there is still bunches on the moon at least.
    • by Junior J. Junior III (192702) on Friday January 20, 2006 @01:52PM (#14520228) Homepage
      Yeah, dude, I'm going to spend $10,000/kg to lift myself up to orbit to go and collect paint chips. They're so valuable, because, like, because they're there, man.

      While I'm up there, I'm sure I won't cause any additional space junk, either.
      • The solution presents itself:

        1. Send up rocket to collect space junk and bring it back to earth.

        2. Look at said space junk for any resemblance to the Virgin Mary, Jesus Christ, Abraham Lincoln, or anyone else famous.

        3. ????

        4. Sell said space junk to Golden Palace [goldenpalace.com]. Profit!

      • Who said anything about bringing the space junk back to earth? I agree with the parent, in the future you'd definitely have a use for space junk, if not for anything more than raw materials you can use for your space ports or other "star ships".
    • You might be right TripMaster Monkey, we could probably salvage some of it... My question is, don't we have the technology now for the entity that's tracking this stuff, whether it be NASA or NORAD, can't they just point a big laser at it and give it a boost in orbital altitude and velocity?

      I suppose in near Earth orbit, there's still a lot of the earth's gravity to overcome, but the idea seems feasible to me with some of the headlines I've been reading about improved and miniaturized lazers. Granted y

    • the only reason it's considered 'junk' is because no one has figured out a way to collect and reuse it


      I feel the same way about toxic waste dumps. If someone would just figure out a way to use all that waste, it'd be a goldmine! No need to worry about it leaking toxic waste into groundwater, because surely someone will figure out a way to make a profit from cleaning them up.

      Hoping someone finds a way to re-use what was once considered trash isn't an approach to the problem. How much of this stuff is even

      • How much of this stuff is even worth anything if you could somehow find a cheap way of bringing it back to earth un-damaged?

        You're misunderstanding me. Currently it costs something on the order of $10,000 per kilogram to get an object into orbit. Even the lowliest of space junk is worth quite a bit, as this cost has already been paid. Bringing it back to earth, even if you could do it for free, would be a monumental waste of money.
      • by Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) * <seebert42@gmail.com> on Friday January 20, 2006 @02:08PM (#14520362) Homepage Journal
        if you could somehow find a cheap way of bringing it back to earth un-damaged?

        This phrase alone suggests that you failed to understand the concept. The point isn't to find a use for this stuff back on EARTH- but rather to find a use for it where it is, in orbit. Raw material for new rooms on the International Space Station perhaps?

        • Raw material for new rooms on the International Space Station perhaps?


          You're kidding, right? Unless you want to put a foundry to melt metal, , something else to fold it into usefull shapes, oh, and welding equipment to put it together in the space station, I don't think raw materials for anything in space is a viable answer. The whole idea that a used 30 year old rocket motor is going to be usefull for someone in a damn space station is ridiculous. It's even more ridiculous than someone on earth trying t
          • Why change its shape?

            I know the whole thing is a very far fetched goofy idea, but if you collect the larger pieces, and they were moved to an orbit similar in relative speed to the the station (or satellite) could it not be used, in current form, as a type of ablative sheilding?

            I know, goofy... but I was looking for a bright side to that.
          • Unless you want to put a foundry to melt metal,

            This is space- and we've got a nice big heat source less than 9 light seconds away. A big magnifying glass makes a great foundry under those conditions; especially in a vaccuum where the heat isn't going to disipate except by radiation.

            something else to fold it into usefull shapes

            Something like say, a sheet press? Or just propel the molten material to where you need it, wait for raidative cooling to harden it, and leave it in place. Or mold it.

            and we

            • That's the idea- we don't need no imagination as long as we can label things as being ridiculous!

              The last resort of the impractical. This is a problem we have right now. Maybe in another 100 years we can think of doing all the things you're talking about, but right now the idea of manufacturing space station parts ON the space station from junk is ridiculous. Nasa believies we need to solve the problem soon, not when some pie-in-the-sky idea of recycling space junk in orbit becomes practical.
      • I feel the same way about toxic waste dumps. If someone would just figure out a way to use all that waste, it'd be a goldmine!

        They've been trying but there has not been any cost effective solutions yet, they all cost way more then it's worth at this point. For information on it look up transmutation and modern alchemy.

        It's possible, just not very practical
    • by everphilski (877346) on Friday January 20, 2006 @02:21PM (#14520466) Journal
      Certainly, some types of space salvage (derelict rockets, satellite fragments, etc.) will have a higher value than others (paint flecks, rocket slag, etc.), but even the lowliest dist speck will have value, for the simple reason that it is there.

      I understand the argument from the standpont that it cost money to put the salvage into orbit. However "collecting" may wind up costing you more than the fragment itself weighs. Consider: Even if you make it up to LEO for free, you have to get to the item and match your position and velocity in the direction the space salvage is traveling to a degree where you (or your robot, whatever) can grab it. Of course you have to abide by the ideal rocket equation http://exploration.grc.nasa.gov/education/rocket/r ktpow.html [nasa.gov]. Great. You got your first piece. Now you have to change heading and velocity to intercept piece #2. These vectors aren't all heading in the same direction at the same location. And they are only tracking about 13,000 pieces in NEO ... that's not very many pieces given the vast area of space there is! Consider 13,000 random objects on the surface of the earth, now extend it upwards a hundred meters, and add a volume of 1000m in the vertical direction. Long story short, you can't turn a profit given the fact that you need fuel to power the robot to collect this stuff. And given the fact that commercial ventures are starting to break the price point barrier - check out spaceX - 10k a kg will drop an order of magnitude in the next 10 years, easy.
  • IMHO (Score:4, Funny)

    by Premo_Maggot (864012) <nessnoop@gmail.com> on Friday January 20, 2006 @01:47PM (#14520179) Homepage
    I really think it matters if we use space as a garbage dump, there's still more space!
  • Breakdown by Country (Score:5, Informative)

    by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@@@gmail...com> on Friday January 20, 2006 @01:48PM (#14520193) Journal
    Space.com [space.com] has a breakdown of responsibility by country of some of the larger debris in space.

    And if you're really hardcore into space debris (it's hard to even type that without laughing), Orbital Debris Quarterly News [nasa.gov] is your magazine!
    • Why does Luxembourg have 9 satellites? I find it odd that they'd have more than countries like Italy and Australia and that China has only 3 times as many. Does Luxembourg handle satellite launches for other European countries or companies as an alternative to the ESA?
    • Another axiom proved true.

      "No matter what your interested in, no matter how esoteric you might think it is, there is a magazine about it."
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 20, 2006 @01:48PM (#14520196)
    A big laser mop, that's all I need.
  • My Solution (Score:3, Funny)

    by alta (1263) on Friday January 20, 2006 @01:50PM (#14520201) Homepage Journal
    Make everything heavier, so it will float back to earth quickly.

    Or, make it lighter and 'launch' it at the sun, the great incenerator in the sky.

    Yeah, I know, so don't bother telling me...
  • Sounds like a job for the Half Section. Too obscure?
    • You beat me to it.

      And it's "Debris Section," thank you very much!

      ^=====^

    • This post needs more moon ninjas.
    • Nawwww, not too obscure. Good show. It's actually just what I was going to post about, myself. For those who haven't seen it, Planetes is a Japanese cartoon about space debris collectors in the near-ish future. IT's actually quite interesting, and has a pretty good story arc. It gets into exploitation of 3rd world nations, like Mananga, and El Tanika, human drive to explore, the importance of getting a proper visa if you intend to work, etc. The Debris collection section is funded by "The Union" (UN
  • ball it up (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dirvish (574948) <<dirvish> <at> <foundnews.com>> on Friday January 20, 2006 @01:51PM (#14520212) Homepage Journal
    Seems like you would have to collect everything into a big ball and then leave the ball up there. I can't imagine dragging a bunch of junk down through the atmosphere. One big ball of junk would be much easier to dodge than thousands of small (probably equally deadly) chunks.
    • Sounds like a game of Katamari!
    • by Tengoo (446300)
      I'm with you here. Plus, should the giant junk ball become a threat to the planet somehow, we could simply build another one and launch it into the incoming ball of junk!
    • If you're serious, then there's quite a flaw - when orbit eventually fails.

      Think of ice. Take a 10-lb block of ice and leave it out on a Spring morning. Then take 10 pounds of ice cubes and shavings and leave them out on the same morning. Walk away.

      Come back in a few hours. Chances are the 10-lb block of ice is still there and still big, while the pile of ice cubes and shavings have just about melted away. The large object can take a thermal pounding a lot easier than the same amount of material in sma
    • Re:ball it up (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Illserve (56215) on Friday January 20, 2006 @02:08PM (#14520357)
      it's not so easy to collect them.

      The real problem is the wildly different velocities of each different piece. These things are zooming along at bullet speeds, and some weigh more than an SUV. The problem is how one neutralizes these enormous differentials in kinetic energy.

      If you tried to collect them in a ball by catching them, each new piece you intercepted would smack into it, creating 1000 new pieces of debris all with wildly random vectors of their own.

      Perhaps if you had some kind of foamy goop that absorbed the energy... but it has to remain pliable in a frozen vacuum.

      • These things are zooming along at bullet speeds

              Relative to what? If it's relative to the Earth, they are much faster than that.
  • by fak3r (917687) on Friday January 20, 2006 @01:51PM (#14520216) Homepage
    You'd think these things would have been more thought out in the past, but judging by the shortsidedness of the current global warming fun (it was almost 70 in St. Louis yesterday) it isn't surprising. Seeing as how the last space shuttle disaster was caused by something hitting it, you'd think this would be a big risk, but it's a big sky and that's why they're monitoring those things. But hell, it'd keep me awake if I were on the shuttle/space station, most of that 'junk' is likely moving at a good clip, and what about things smaller than 4"? Are these 'rogue' things out there moving faster than a bullet headed towards the delecate skin of a ship? Hope they get it solved before the put the Howard Johnson hotel up there, can't wait for that! ;)
    • As most objects orbit in the same direction (West to East I believe) Couldn't you put up a big net with a rigid body behind it that orbits east to west. Small objects that go throught he net would strike the rigid body and lose momentum. Only problem is you would need considerable rockets to reaccelerate the net as it would lose momentum as well.
    • Hope they get it solved before the put the Howard Johnson hotel up there

      First off, the guy making the space Hotel is Robert Bigelow so it'll be a Budget Suites of America. Secondly the vast majority of spacecraft are lauched from west to east to make use of the earths rotational velocity (roughly 400m/s at the equator). So most of those objects are moving - you guessed it - west to east. As is the space station, the shuttle, etc. If they are all moving in the same direction collision speeds aren't that hi
      • >Hope they get it solved before the put the Howard Johnson hotel up there

        >>>First off, the guy making the space Hotel is Robert Bigelow so it'll be a Budget Suites of America.

        This is the hotel [palantir.net] I was refering to, just so ya know.
    • but judging by the shortsidedness of the current global warming fun (it was almost 70 in St. Louis yesterday)

      Wow. Really, just wow. Sorry, but I couldn't keep reading after you believe that the weather for one day in one city can anyway possibly be considered evidence for or against global warming.
      • Yep, I realized where I was and that a statement like that would loose some folks, but hey, be as close minded as you want, there are plenty of others like you. Talk to me in 50 years when our children are dealing with the problems that we ignored.
    • You'd think these things would have been more thought out in the past

      You make it sound like they planned to have things break or explode. A lot of the stuff that's considered "junk" up there is there by accident, not because we didn't think it through.

      Are these 'rogue' things out there moving faster than a bullet headed towards the delecate skin of a ship?

      Not really that big a deal as long as it's moving in the same direction that you are, is it? But, yes, there are.
    • Hmm. Somehow I'm just not finding this +Insightful.

      but judging by the shortsidedness of the current global warming fun (it was almost 70 in St. Louis yesterday) it isn't surprising

      I'm not sure which "side" you're finding short. I suppose you mean shortsightedness, as in "not seeing clearly into the future." Ignoring that, let's take your comment into consideration and use another city's weather to see if you're making a good case. Hmmm... judging by the fact that it's a balmy -20F [breitbart.com] in Moscow, I'd say t
  • See it for yourself (Score:5, Informative)

    by Guysmiley777 (880063) on Friday January 20, 2006 @01:51PM (#14520217)
    Java based orbit tracker courtesy of NASA:

    http://science.nasa.gov/Realtime/JTrack/3D/JTrack3 D.html [nasa.gov]
  • by Anonymous Coward
    You should see the pile of quantum foam I cleaned out of my ears last night!
  • The U.S. Space Surveillance Network is currently tracking over 13,000 human-made objects larger than four inches (ten centimeters) in diameter orbiting the Earth

    I have trouble keeping track of my car keys, wallet, and house keys - and they're usually within 10 metres of me. Perhaps I need a House Surveillance Network - actually, scratch that...

    • by Anonymous Coward
      I have trouble keeping track of my car keys, wallet, and house keys - and they're usually within 10 metres of me. Perhaps I need a House Surveillance Network

      Why reinvent the wheel? Just ask the NSA if you can use theirs.

  • by metamatic (202216) on Friday January 20, 2006 @01:52PM (#14520229) Homepage Journal
    "NASA Warns of Cluttered Space"--they've seen my office?
  • salvage on (Score:2, Interesting)

    by JagRoth (115052)
    All we need is someone to "builds a space ship from his scrap pile in order to retreive valuable parts left on the moon" and in space by Astronauts, the kind of thing you might find in a tv show [imdb.com].
  • by Illserve (56215) on Friday January 20, 2006 @01:58PM (#14520276)
    Alright everyone, I'm sure we can figure out how to solve this problem in our spare time between meetings and system rebuilds. After all, there's no problem NASA thinks is insurmountable that we can't convince ourselves is easily solved.
    • Alright everyone, I'm sure we can figure out how to solve this problem in our spare time between meetings and system rebuilds. After all, there's no problem NASA thinks is insurmountable that we can't convince ourselves is easily solved.

      Sure its simple. At least for the stuff in fairly low orbit, which it was you care about.

      Detonate large nukes just inside the atmosphere. This should create a bulge of atmosphere further into space than normal. As the objects run into this the higher atmospheric drag with

  • by dada21 (163177) <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Friday January 20, 2006 @02:04PM (#14520329) Homepage Journal
    I couldn't RTFA from my PDA. Are there private companies working on machines to try to capture these items? I'm sure it would be too expensive to ship back down to earth, but I wouldn't doubt that the raw materials might be worthy in a future moon or mars base.

    It sounds like there might be some very valuable materials already in orbit, considering the cost to take up new materials on a launch. I'd love to see "the race to space" be over a bunch of competitive companies working to reclaim and reuse the junk.
  • When I have heard about this problem before, I have thought why can't they orbit a couple of large (200') diameter pieces of very sticky something.. when enough stuff has collected the whole thing will de-orbit and burn up..

    • What about that nifty aerogel stuff they used for the Stardust mission? It seems like they could put several large steerable "sponges" made of this stuff to "soak up" things like the bits of paint and plastic and so forth. From what we've seen of the Stardust samples, it seems to have worked well, and I would assume that these particles are not so dissimilar from the comet dust as to not work.

      Perhaps these sponges could soak up the small stuff, then be deorbited (or harvested and reclaimed). But the quest

  • by hakan2000 (945918) on Friday January 20, 2006 @02:07PM (#14520353) Homepage
    I'll make a wild guess that, not many people will care about this problem for a loooong while, until a disasterous space accident is caused by space debris. And then there'll be ridiculous attempts to alleviate the problem, such as a 'kyoto protocol' of space debris, which won't be ratified by guess who. Who's with me?
  • Why is NASA warning us of cluttered space? How are we to do anything about it? Isn't it NASA (and other equivalents) that cause this?
  • Ok. So we can capture comet dust and bring it back to earth, right?

    Why not take a whole bunch of that aerogel, and put it up in space in big shields? Maybe even have smaller robots that use it to actively collect larger pieces? Eventualy most of the small debris will stick to it and we can deal with smaller number of larger objects.

  • Please excuse me for not having proof to back this up, but I heard on TV once that, due to the contesting gravitational pulls of the Earth, the moon, and the sun, that this debris accelerates continuously to tens of thousands of miles per hour. A hunk of shrapnel the size of a penny could tear a hole straight through a sattelite or spacecraft and hardly lose any momentum.

    Kindly reply if you can provide clarification on this or if you can debunk it.
    • but I heard on TV once that, due to the contesting gravitational pulls of the Earth, the moon, and the sun, that this debris accelerates continuously to tens of thousands of miles per hour.

            Don't believe everything you read. Believe it even less if it's on TV.
  • Solution! (Score:2, Funny)

    by alx5000 (896642)
    Send the World's Biggest Magnet [fsu.edu] to orbit round the Earth! (Remember to attatch some politicians to it in order to clean both Earth and near Space)
  • by Jtheletter (686279) on Friday January 20, 2006 @02:19PM (#14520451)
    One of the many shoot-ourselves-in-the-foot-with-tech scenarios that I have always been afraid of is the one in which through some, possibly minor at first, event in orbit our hundreds of satellites are smashed by debris and fan out smashing more in a chain reaction. The end result being that the earth is surrounded by a junk field that prevents any access to space because the probability of a fatal collision with junk is almost 1. Now, I'm sure there are a bunch of orbital physics geeks who can share their field knowledge and explain why that is unlikely or impossible (given different orbital heights and paths and decay of orbits into the atmosphere) currently, but I think it is still a wholly plausible future scenario when we have way more stuff in orbit than we do currently.

    For example, the EU is now setting up it's own system of GPS satellites. How long until global politics force other countries like China, India, Korea, Japan, etc to put their own systems in place to ensure GPS access during troubled times? Plus communications continue to evolve towards satellite based systems for various reasons and as more countries reach 1st-class tech status they will want their own resources. The idea is that eventually without a specific system in place to mitigate risk humanity could doom itself to staying planetside for generations while we wait for junk to reenter the atmo, or be collected by robots or something.

    Maybe now is the time to come up with some plans for the future to do more than just track space junk, and in fact move on to collecting, dispersing, or destroying it.

    • etc to put their own systems in place to ensure GPS access during troubled times?

      Correct me if I am wrong, but GPS satellites are in geosynchronous orbit a couple earth radii (radiuses?) out. That makes a sphere with one heck of a huge "surface", and I am sure there is a heck of a lot of room for oodles more junk out at that range before it ever becomes a problem. The problem is low earth orbit, which has a considerably smaller "area" (or volume if you include a chunk of height).
      • Correct me if I am wrong,

        Ok. Although, luckily, not everything you said is wrong.

        GPS satellites are in geosynchronous orbit a couple earth radii (radiuses?) out.

        Well, no. The current United States GPS system consists of 24 satellites (plus spares) orbiting in 6 equally-spaced orbital planes at an inclination of 55 degrees and an altitude of 20,200 km, which is right in the region of space between low Earth orbit (LEO - generally between 100km and 1000km altitude) and geosyncronous Earth orbit (GEO - 35,786
  • check out http://www.tethers.com/ [tethers.com] They have a net thingie for grabbing space debris, and tethers for dragging debris out of orbit!
  • by Bull_UK (944763)
    This plug-in [worldwindcentral.com] shows the mess up there quite clearly, and it's only showing a fraction of whats really above our heads
  • by digitaldc (879047) on Friday January 20, 2006 @02:40PM (#14520662)
    Man, first my wife complains and now NASA?

    I just need my space.
  • by gru3hunt3r (782984) on Friday January 20, 2006 @02:42PM (#14520685) Journal
    I like space junk - it keeps the aliens away.

    First off it makes us look like a poorer planet, I mean honestly who wants to conquer a home with a trans-am up on blocks in the front driveway and thousands of beer cans strewn about the lawn?? Sorry little green guys, we already stripmined this place!

    But it's also practical -- long before the impending alien invasion can occur, they'll need to clean up the space junk before they can place their ships in near earth orbit. As soon as the space junk is gone, then there is really nothing to stop them from enslaving us and using us as a food source (mmm.. protein)

    As far as i'm concerned space junk is one of the few things keeping us safe, that -- and of course the avian flu. (I'm harboring infected chickens in my cellar just in case one of those little green men shows up at my door)

  • "It's like any environmental problem," he said. "It's growing. If you don't tackle it now, it will only become worse, and the remedies in the future are going to be even more costly than if you tackle it today."

    So like all the other environmental problems, a tiny percentage of the population will change it for the better, but the overwhelming majority will still contribute to the problem until it's so bad that, well, most environmental problems are still getting worse, so the outcome of that scenario has yet to be determined. Not good, though, I'd bet.
  • I just do not understand how the author can claim that the debris in space is going to increase after 2055 even without future launches. If that is the case then it certainly is much more than a man-made issue. That just doesn't make much sense to me at all.
  • "Oh, my God. It's Mega Maid. She's gone from suck to blow."
  • Planet ES (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Lord_Dweomer (648696) on Friday January 20, 2006 @03:10PM (#14520931) Homepage
    For any who are really interested in this, and want a peak at what the near future might hold in terms of space debris and cleaning it up...I HIGHLY recommend the anime series Planet ES [animenfo.com]. It is an anime about a group of space debris collectors who are essentially the trashmen of the near future where we have a functioning moonbase, space tourism, etc.

    It is EXCELLENTLY written, and is great fun to watch even if you're not that interested in space trash. Great story, also deals a bit with global economics and what happens when you widen the development/financial gap between 1st and 3rd world countries even more by bringing the massive profits from space mining and tourism into play.

  • Solution: (Score:4, Funny)

    by skintigh2 (456496) on Friday January 20, 2006 @03:32PM (#14521133)
    Start grabbing them out of orbit and sell them on ebay to goldenpalace for $25,000 each. That way they can clean space and make a profit!

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