Space debris is fast becoming a major threat to satellites and extraterrestrial travel – and could have fatal implications for the latter if the problem is not resolved.
According to NPR, the International Space Station (ISS) was about to come into contact with space debris last week, for the third time this year.
Waste is usually made up of pieces of broken technology, technology used in the last 63 years of space exploration – most often from satellites. The debris often travels at speeds of about 29,000 kilometers per hour, which means that even the smallest objects can have terrible consequences.
What does the existence of space debris entail and how serious is the problem?
In an interview, Raffi Khatchadourian, a reporter for The New Yorker, detailed the problem increasing.
Khatchadourian explained that one of the first signs that space debris would become a problem was identified in 2015, when astronauts realized that an object was about to hit the ISS with an astonishing 50,000 kilometers per hour.
It was detected late, so the astronauts only had four hours to move the station. It was too little time, so those on the boat had moved into the rescue capsule and hoped the object would miss them. Fortunately, he did. However, not fortunately, we notice that such dangers are becoming more frequent.
“It is estimated that there are 8,000 metric tons of such a man-made mass revolving around the planet,” Khatchadourian explained.
“About 26,000 of them have a size that the US military can track, so 10 centimeters or more.
But when you get under the size of 10 centimeters, then you are left with hundreds of millions of pieces that are the size of a millimeter or even a hundred trillion the size of a micron.
At the speed we are talking about, something the size of a grain of sand can destroy an entire spacecraft, ”he concluded.
The problem of space debris can be solved
However, researchers not only warn the general public about the problem, but also provide solutions. Although the scientists did not come up with a specific plan on how to clean the space, they did come up with suggestions ranging from lasers to nets to “robotic harpoons or pliers” apparently inspired by SF.
One thing we all agree on, however, is the need for change. Astronomers have long warned about Kessler syndrome, meaning the frightening possibility that space will become so crowded that it will be unusable.
This would have serious consequences for our modern world, which relies on satellites and other objects for a range of needs.