A Dutch Artist/Engineer Is Using Giant Green Lasers to Track Space Junk Orbiting the Earth

Monday, 15 October 2018 - 1:04PM
Science Art
Space
Earth
Monday, 15 October 2018 - 1:04PM
A Dutch Artist/Engineer Is Using Giant Green Lasers to Track Space Junk Orbiting the Earth
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Opening SPACE WASTE LAB – Studio Roosegaarde (from press release)
We may think of space as a vast, untouched frontier, but the truth is that there's already about 18 million pounds of junk floating around Earth, and according to NASA, a large portion of that debris is flying around at around 17,500 miles per hour. As humanity turns its eyes (and rockets) to the stars, all that junk is going to start becoming a major problem, and Dutch artist Daan Roosegaarde wants to do something about it. It just so happens that "something" involves giant green lasers.

Roosegaarde recently opened an educational exhibit called the Space Waste Lab, which educates people about the growing danger of space junk and challenges them to think about solutions. To help drive home the reality of space junk (most of which is invisible to the naked eye), Roosegaarde set up a network of LED spotlights that shoot pairs of green lasers into the sky, each one pointing at a real piece of space junk orbiting the Earth.

Roosegaarde has garnered international fame for his smog vacuum clear project, which sucked up harmful particles in the air and turned them into diamonds, and his Smog Free Tower, which was a big hit in China. His projects toe the line between thought-provoking and practical, but one of the uniting themes of his work is preserving and repairing the environment. According to him: "I became fascinated with the idea of cleaning up our landscape, our environment, and trying to humanize them again, and so began to think, maybe space waste can be an ingredient, maybe it's a building block to do something new."

Roosegaarde hopes to collect and "upcycle" space junk into something useful, and will be launching an initiative to explore ways to do just that, with the grand goal of creating a 3-D printing facility on the Moon. Fortunately for him, a new project called RemoveDEBRIS made its first space junk capture using a net, hopefully paving the way for a full-fledged orbiting platform designed to clean up low-Earth orbit's trash problem.

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