Artist's impression of space junk

Scientists and aerospace engineers alike have long been worried about the consequences of junking Earth’s orbit^. On this site the topic was first mentioned shortly after North Korea put an (apparently) useless satellite^ up there. This is a serious issue, as highlighted by this year’s conference on space debris, which was understandably worried about recent initiatives that consist of launching entire constellations of micro-satellites:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/speaking-of-science/wp/2017/04/21/thousands-of-tiny-satellites-are-about-to-go-into-space-and-possibly-ruin-it-forever^

The title of the article linked above is a bit misleading, as it is often the case with these for-profit media publications that rely on grabbing attention. No, this won’t ruin our orbit “forever”. But if the worst comes to pass, it will, however, ruin it for a couple of generations. So, from a single person’s perspective, it is forever.

Should we expect the worst to happen? With SpaceX alone planning to plant about 3000 (yes, that’s three thousand) satellites in orbit during the next decade, I think it is a valid concern. Especially as this is done with little (if any) preparation to mitigate orbital pollution:

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-09-26/elon-musk-s-plan-to-girdle-earth-with-satellites-hits-turbulence^

We’re being reckless with our satellite launches. This can cause an orbital catastrophe that might see us lose a lot of our assets there, leading to an informational collapse. So far, I haven’t seen any of these organizations that dump junk around the orbit even consider a valid, peer-reviewed de-orbiting strategy. This seems extremely short-sighted for a species that is increasingly relying on its extra-terrestrial ventures.

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2 Comments

    • Reply

      Haha :). The Pink Floyd is exactly the reference I actually had in mind when I wrote the title :D. Glad you caught it so well.

      Yeah, the NASA turd problem is always funny to read about :D. Now-a-days I think they jettison the poop in the atmosphere. Which means that right now, somebody, somewhere, is snorting atomized astronaut poop. Perhaps it’s even me. Mmmmmmm, that shit is getting me so orbital!

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