Human Space Exploration Leaves Dangerous Debris In Earth's Orbit

Category: Technology / Apr 22, 2013 3:32PM EDT
Human space exploration is one of mankind’s hugest achievements, but it appears it has taken its toll on Earth’s orbit. What is now infamously known as a “giant leap” for man now has giant consequences. The head of the European Space Agency’s Space Debris Office says the issue of ‘space debris,’ or garbage left from humans’ exploration of outer space, needs to be dealt with. There have been around 4,700 rocket launches since the launch of Earth’s first artificial satellive, Sputnik, in 1957… which has left over 6500 tons of debris fragments, rocket stages, or defunct satellites in orbit. This ‘space debris’ is potentially dangerous for operational satellites and spacecraft. The International Space Station has been forced to avoid objects floating dangerously close to its path in space. "A ten centimetre object would be capable of totally shattering a spacecraft," Klinkrad said. "A one centimetre object would already be capable of disabling a satellite that's still operational,” said Heiner Klinkrad, Head of ESA Space Debris Office. Upon impact, the one centimetre object would have the kinetic energy equivalent to "an exploding hand grenade", if it were travelling at the typical velocity of 50,000 kilometres per hour, he added. The head of the ESA’s Debris Office says humans need to work to actively clear the debris we have created or risk triggering the ‘Kessler syndrome”, a situation in which space object collisions could cause a cascade of further collisions, making some of the orbit’s regions unusable in the future. The only way to solve the problem is to "actively go there and remove mass from orbit", he said. The ESA conference, which takes place from 22nd until 25th April, hopes to discuss methods of removing the debris, such as using high energy lasers, fired from our planet, to vaporize the fragments using energy absorption. Video Source: Reuters