Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Speaking of which (space debris)

I just posted about the Fermi telescope's near collision last year.   And just last week, there was the biggest ever European conference on space debris.   And here's one of the things they concluded:

"There is a wide and strong expert consensus on the pressing need to act now to begin debris removal activities," says Heiner Klinkrad, Head of ESA's Space Debris Office.

"Our understanding of the growing space debris problem can be compared with our understanding of the need to address Earth's changing climate some 20 years ago."

There was wide agreement that the continuing growth in space debris poses an increasing threat to economically and scientifically vital orbital regions.
Now, if 20 years ago there was an understanding of the need to address Earth's changing climate, and nothing of major significance, import, or impact has been done since, then clearly the next 20 years probably will result in very little progress on the space debris problem, as the problem gets progressively worse.

Great.  However, there's a big difference between this and climate change:  the deleterious economic and scientific consequences of a markedly increased frequency of space accidents that disable expensive satellites are immediately perceivable.   For that reason, action might start to get taken.  They are already emphasizing that all new satellites will need deorbit capability, and they also said this:

"... current levels mean that we must soon begin removing debris from orbit, with research and development urgently needed for pilot 'cleaning' missions."

I'm going to be REAL interested in the pilot technologies that ultimately get launched to make the attempt to clean up orbiting space junk.

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