Space Is Filling Up with Junk - Here's What Scientists Are Planning to Prevent a Gravity-Type Disaster

Wednesday, 06 May 2015 - 12:52PM
Technology
Science of Sci-Fi
Wednesday, 06 May 2015 - 12:52PM
Space Is Filling Up with Junk - Here's What Scientists Are Planning to Prevent a Gravity-Type Disaster
In the 2013 Oscar-winning sci-fi film Gravity, two astronauts are stranded in space after a high-speed cloud of debris destroys their spaceship. Now, new research warns that a similar event in real life is becoming a more immediate danger, as various missions are put at risk by millions of pieces of debris hurtling around in space, including 50,000 tiny, high-speed pieces that could easily destroy a manmade shuttle.



Most of the debris in space comes from defunct or exploded satellites, the latter of which results in both large pieces and miniscule pieces of debris. Recently, when a US defense satellite exploded, space agencies concluded that the debris did not pose a threat, but the researchers insist that their evaluation did not take the smaller pieces of debris into account.

"Even though many of these objects will be no bigger than the ball in a ballpoint pen, they can disable a spacecraft in a collision because of their enormous speed. In the case of the DMSP-F13 explosion, our work has shown that the introduction of a new cloud of small-sized debris into orbit will have increased the risks for other spacecraft in the vicinity, even if the risk from the larger fragments has been discounted."

Space debris has been acknowledged as a dangerous problem for quite some time now, and scientists have proposed several solutions, each more outlandish-sounding than the next. The most recent proposal comes from scientists at Japan's Riken Institute, who claim that the most expedient solution would be to blast space junk with a laser attached to the ISS. In their paper, they propose that a high-efficiency laser system could push pieces of space debris into Earth's atmosphere, where they would immediately burn up. This precision technique would work particularly well on the smallest, and most dangerous, pieces of space junk.

There was also a recent ESA study that aimed to clean up space garbage using giant fishing nets. According to the organization, the nets would be shot out of a compressed air ejector towards a satellite, and then would close around the satellite, allowing it to be collected by the human operators. They were able to prove that the technique works on a smaller scale, as seen in the video below:



Via The Telegraph/Gizmodo.
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