News You Really Need To See: “As Risks From Orbital Junk Rise, Is It Time to Take Out the Trash?”

“As Risks From Orbital Junk Rise, Is It Time to Take Out the Trash?”

The Washington Post, May 7, 2014, p.A1

Space: so vast, so open. And yet, so littered with junk.  Hundreds of thousands of pieces of man-made debris are floating around out there, the detritus of more than 50 years of spaceflight. There have been chunks of dead satellites and spent rocket boosters — even a glove that an astronaut dropped in 1965 and a spatula that escaped from a space shuttle in 2006.  Because it zips along faster than a speeding bullet, the trash poses an ever-growing threat to the satellites that help the military communicate and gather intelligence and serve the world’s obsession with Google Earth and on-demand movies.  Until last year, the Pentagon used what was called a ‘Space Fence’ to track the junk and warn of potential collisions that make owners scramble to move their satellites out of the way.  But that system managed to keep up with only a fraction of it all, and it went out of commission last year.  Now the Air Force is poised to take a more modern crack at the problem with a new Space Fence.  With a contract expected to be awarded in the next few weeks, the program is designed to be mankind’s best effort yet at tracking space pollution.  But the new Space Fence still doesn’t provide what many think is the ultimate solution: cleaning up space.”

Quickie Analysis:  Yet another example of failing to consider the pollution problems of technological development.  Hopefully a solution will be found before space junk becomes a serious problem rather than occasional inconvenience.

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