Space is Rubbish!

A recent report from the US National Research Council has highlighted an ever increasing problem – space debris. Ever since humans started sending things up into orbit there has been a problem with space junk, because not everything that goes up there comes back down. While larger objects will fall out of orbit and either return to Earth or burn up in the atmosphere, smaller fragments remain in orbit. While small, these fragments could do a significant amount of damage to satellites (or worse spacecraft) and there are also old satellites and spent booster rockets that remain in orbit which could cause even more damage. Some computer models are suggesting that the level of debris has reached a tipping point where there is so much debris that it will be constantly colliding – creating yet more debris. So what is the solution? Several ideas have been proposed including a giant magnet and an umbrella shaped device to sweep up debris. Whichever solution is decided upon, something needs to be done for the sake of those onboard the International Space Station, who increasingly have to dodge the space junk that shares their orbit.

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// Felicity Carlysle is a 2nd year Forensic Science PhD student at the University of Strathclyde.

Creative Commons License Space is Rubbish! by Felicity Carlysle is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.


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