MadSci Network: Astronomy

Re: What are we doing to space? With all the space junk?

Date: Wed Jun 1 16:50:21 2005
Posted By: Douglas Eaton, Staff, Engineering, Varian Medical Systems
Area of science: Astronomy
ID: 1117060572.As

Hello Sandra,

We are indeed polluting space, just as we are polluting the rest of our 
environment.  And while we have the means to collect the garbage others 
spread around on earth, collecting the space debris is a much more 
challenging problem.

As is often the case, the early users of space were the least responsible, 
leaving not only the spacecraft, but trash and other "expendable" items 
circling our globe at incredible (and quite dangerous) speeds.  Agencies 
putting satelites and people into space have gotten a bit more responsible 
of late, but as more and more satelites are put into Earth's orbit, the 
problem will continue to grow.

At this point, scientists are tracking the larger space debris, to help 
make sure a valuable spacecraft or human life is not unnecessarily 
endangered.  There are actually "free" spaces that are used as launch 
zones to make things a bit safer, but several times, the space shuttle has 
had to change it's trajectory to avoid the chance of being hit by a piece 
of debris.

At this point, scientists don't really have a solution, but at least they 
are doing a better job of not creating more junk than is necessary.

You can look at this web site I found to give you some more information!

Doug Eaton

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