If we don't clean up space debris, it could become impossible to leave Earth's atmosphere. But scientists have a plan. Well, lots of plans.

SeekerPublished: July 10, 2018Updated: July 11, 2018
Published: July 10, 2018Updated: July 11, 2018

There are more than half-a-million pieces of pieces of space junk floating around above you, totalling over 7,500 tons of stuff. It's not just spent rocket stages, or dead satellites. There are bolts, flecks of paint, bits of shrapnel... and no matter the size, they're all going thousands of meters per second waiting to collide with something important! Size doesn't really matter.

There are more than 20,000 pieces of space debris larger than a softball, but so many, about 500,000, are just marble-or-larger-sized pieces. If any of these hit a spacecraft, they could cause some serious damage. So, we have to clean it up. And when we talk about cleaning up space we really mean one thing: nudging fast-moving space debris so it falls into Earth's atmosphere. From there, friction with the air will burn it up or it can fall into the sea.

But that's not easy. Any spacecraft planning to de-orbit some junk will have to: match the target's orbit, burn fuel to catch up to the speed of the junk, then grab it (which could be hard if it's tumbling out of control), then burn more fuel to slow down the now two spacecrafts, and put them both into a decaying orbit that will cause the burn up or splashdown of the junk. Whew.

Luckily for us, some of the most creative, and perspicacious minds on the planet are working on it.

 

This video, "If we don't clean up space debris, it could become impossible to leave Earth's atmosphere. But scientists have a plan. Well, lots of plans.", first appeared on seeker.com.

Be the first to suggest a tag

    Comments

    0 comments