News / Science & Technology

Scientists Deliberate Cleaning Space Junk

Scientists Deliberate Cleaning Space Junki
X
June 25, 2014 4:06 AM
Everything that we launch into an orbit around the earth eventually becomes space debris. Scientists say the increasing number of unusable objects circling our planet is threatening functioning satellites as well as humans flying into space. VOA’s George Putic reports how the European Space Agency, or ESA, plans to solve the problem.
George Putic
Everything that we launch into an orbit around the earth eventually becomes space debris. Scientists say the increasing number of unusable objects circling our planet is threatening functioning satellites as well as humans flying into space. The European Space Agency, or ESA, plans to solve the problem.
 
The U.S. space agency NASA says there are half a million pieces of space debris, with more than 20,000 larger than an apple. Most are speeding along at about seven kilometers per second, or more than 25,000 kilometers per hour.
 
At that speed, the impact of even a cherry-sized piece of metal is enormous, said the deputy head of ESA Space Debris Office, Holger Krag.
 
“At this velocity both objects will shatter into pieces, this will be bad for the object concerned but it will also be bad for the rest of the environment, because we will add additional fragments which again then are candidates for future collisions,” said Krag.
 
Scientists monitor the path of space debris and sometimes reposition satellites or even the International Space Station to avoid collisions. But, Krag said, keeping track of the orbiting junk requires powerful sensors.
 
“The U.S. Space Strategic Command is in possession of those sensors, it's a relic of the Cold War, to detect approaching missiles. And it is a global network of radar and telescope stations on the ground observing space continuously all of the time,” said Krag.
 
Loss of communications, GPS or a scientific satellite could have potentially devastating effects, so scientists are exploring options for removing dangerous debris.
 
“That means planning a mission that goes there, approaches, rendezvous and captures the object, berths it, and then does the controlled orbit maneuver.  This is a very complex technology that will be required for that,” explained Krag.
 
Several designs are in consideration, such as a satellite that fires beams of charged particles that gradually slow down flying objects, dragging them into the atmosphere where they will burn up.
 
Smaller objects could be shot down with ground-based lasers, while large ones that could break up into thousands of smaller pieces may be brought down with special robotic satellites.
 
Even though such missions could cost up to $200 million, Krag says they should start as soon as possible to prevent the chance of larger collisions that could send many thousands of additional pieces on a deadly flight around the earth.

You May Like

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid