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Scientists Say Space Junk at Tipping Point Options
Daemon
Posted: Sunday, September 25, 2011 12:00:00 AM
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Scientists Say Space Junk at Tipping Point

U S scientists say that the amount of space junk orbiting Earth has reached a tipping point, as enough is currently in orbit to cause continual collisions that will create even more debris and further raise the risk of collisions. There are tens of thousands of pieces of debris large enough to track from the ground and untold numbers of smaller objects that cannot be tracked but could still cause serious damage to the many commercial, military, and civilian satellites upon which we rely. More...
bturpin
Posted: Sunday, September 25, 2011 2:07:36 AM
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Before all the rebuttals, yes I am aware of the vastness of space even if its only Earths mid and lower orbits. Several years ago the built a spacecraft with wide panels that contained a dense plastic/gel to catch meteorite pieces and bring them back to earth. Being that we are tracking most of this debris, couldn't the same technology be applied here?
munro66
Posted: Sunday, September 25, 2011 9:41:21 AM
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Did not these scientists know that what goes up has to come down
GabhSigenod
Posted: Sunday, September 25, 2011 10:28:01 AM

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Two words of advice: Anxious HEADS UP
leonAzul
Posted: Sunday, September 25, 2011 1:27:44 PM

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bturpin wrote:
Before all the rebuttals, yes I am aware of the vastness of space even if its only Earths mid and lower orbits. Several years ago the built a spacecraft with wide panels that contained a dense plastic/gel to catch meteorite pieces and bring them back to earth. Being that we are tracking most of this debris, couldn't the same technology be applied here?


That idea is not a bad one. There are several reasons that make it impractical.

The technology you are referring to is excellent for collecting the smaller bits -- which is actually the bulk of the matter and is too small to be tracked -- but is not very useful for anything more massive than a few hundred grams or so. As applied, the scope of its mission was comparatively simple: put it in a more or less stable orbit, open the panels sticky side out, collect in-coming samples, close it up, destabilize the orbit and bring the collection back to Earth where it can be studied. What you are suggesting would involve the additional complications of sweeping a broad volume of orbital zones, and then deciding what to do with the mess. Both the "hoovering up" and the disposal of the collection -- by causing it to escape Earth's gravity and crash into the Sun, for example -- add significant costs to the energy requirements. It still doesn't deal with the larger structures that are no longer controllable from the ground.

Going forward, NASA has established an office to study the problem and make policy recommendations, the NASA Orbital Debris Program Office. Further details on policies and current activities can be found at that link.
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