Human beings have a great capacity to produce waste. This waste is no longer limited only to planet Earth, the amount of garbage that orbits our planet is increasing and represents a danger for telecommunications and space missions, apart from for space in this area. This is what we call space junk.
In this AgroCorrn article, we will talk about what space debris is and how we can avoid it , as it is vital that you start reducing its amount.
- What is space junk
- The need to clean up space junk
- Proposals to avoid space debris
What is space junk
It is estimated that about 8,000 satellites currently orbit the Earth , of which approximately 560 are operational. If we add this to the debris generated in the various space missions, they make about 600 tons of debris orbiting the Earth . It is estimated about 100 million pieces of garbage in total. The origins and sizes of this space junk are very different, from small pieces of metal or paint to entire satellites.
These orbiting pieces represent a real danger for the different satellites important in human communications or the care of the environment, for space missions and astronauts. An example is that astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) have been forced to hide more than once in special compartments to avoid colliding with large objects.
However, according to experts, it is the smallest residues that are the most dangerous , because they are the most difficult to locate and move at high speeds, so that when they hit the equipment they can generate the effect of a submachine gun bullet. . Such objects are known by the name of debris .
The need to clean up space junk
A large part of this waste that is space pollution disintegrates when trying to cross the Earth’s atmosphere, but it is the largest ones that can reach the earth’s surface or even endanger commercial flights. For example, during 2007, a flight from Santiago de Chile to New Zealand reported the presence of a fragment of space debris about eight kilometers from its position.
The problem of this garbage is getting bigger and bigger, being able to make the Earth’s orbit impassable due to its presence. Even the presence of an increasing volume of space debris can generate other impacts with more objects and in turn produce more waste, and so on. This cascading effect of space debris was proposed by NASA consultant Donald J. Kessler under the name Kessler syndrome.
Proposals to avoid space debris
In recent years, various international proposals have emerged to combat space debris in an effective, ecological and economic way. Some of these are:
- Electrodynamic cables: this proposal was made by the Japanese Space Exploration Agency (JAXA) and consists of a satellite that locates the pieces of garbage and eliminates it. For this, it uses a cable that takes advantage of the Earth’s magnetism to drag the garbage and reduce its speed. In this way it would be possible to eliminate the waste from Earth’s orbit and make it pass through the atmosphere until it disintegrates.
- Simulator for electrodynamic moorings: this is a European project with Spanish participation and it proposes to design a mooring rope to be coupled to the satellites. These moorings would roll up like a reel and shift once the satellite is no longer operational. This would remove the waste from Earth’s orbit and cause it to disintegrate in the atmosphere.
- Laser: is another project in which a Spanish university participates. It consists of preparing a laser that could be fired from the Earth and destroy the debris of 1 to 20 cm.
- Harpoons: consists of the development of an instrument in the form of a harpoon to capture waste and direct it into the atmosphere, where it will disintegrate.
- Collecting vehicles: it consists of a space vehicle that would collect the scrap metal and transport it to the base station.
- Aerial gel: consists of a synthetic and light material like a gel that solidifies and traps everything that comes into contact with it. It was already used once on the Stardust ship to collect space dust and it is believed that it could also be used for space debris.
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