MindBullets 20 Years

Nightmare in space

Rockets are grounded and space explorers stranded

It’s a fact: We are stuck on Earth indefinitely while our brave explorers are fighting for their lives on the Moon, on Mars, and in the asteroid belt’s mining communities. The nightmare scenario, the Kessler Syndrome, that satellite operators and space agencies have warned about for years, materialized yesterday.

A commercial satellite launch malfunctioned, with the rocket and payload tumbling uncontrolled and at full speed into the low Earth orbital plane, crashing into a number of Starlink satellites. The debris generated by the collisions cascaded laterally and outward, creating the Kessler Syndrome – a hailstorm of high-velocity debris smashing into other satellites, initiating a chain reaction of more collisions and even more debris. Not only did it wipe out the satellites in low Earth orbit, but spread within a couple of hours all the way out to geostationary orbit, obliterating both GPS and weather satellites.

“The worldwide traffic chaos experienced overnight is a direct result of our cars and machines losing the GPS network,” Director Thomson of NASA explained. “We should be glad most of us don’t access the internet via satellites.” Those who do have lost all connectivity.

It will probably take weeks, if not months, to clear the traffic jams. Agriculture and food deliveries have ground to a halt, and flights will be severely delayed. The initial analysis has shown that the orbital planes are so full of debris, that traversing through them, or even replacing the satellites, is currently not technically possible. Hundreds of astronauts inhabiting the four Moon bases, MarsOne, and mining the asteroid belt are stranded and left to fend for themselves.

Crisis teams at NASA, CNSA in China, ESA in Europe, and Russia’s Roscosmos are already looking at various ways of clearing a path for new spacecraft launches. Leaked rumours include solutions such as using the Asteroid Defense Co-operative’s nuclear rockets to blast through the debris or using high-powered lasers to vaporize orbiting junk.

Meanwhile, SpaceX is planning an exploratory mission to the edge of the debris field as early as next week. Their reusable Starships are ideal for a less violent way of dealing with the debris and can scoop up bigger pieces with graphene ‘nets’. “We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to clean up space and remove obsolete satellites,” Dan Woyzek, spokesperson for SpaceX, explained.

Whichever solution is selected, it may take years before we can resume normal space flight or have a functioning GPS system again. Until we have developed a way to use mobile phone and Wi-Fi networks for precise navigation, we won’t have autonomous vehicles, Google maps, predictive food deliveries, or reliable supply chains.

Image credit: Joshua Rozells (Instagram: @joshua_rozells)

Warning: Hazardous thinking at work

Despite appearances to the contrary, Futureworld cannot and does not predict the future. Our Mindbullets scenarios are fictitious and designed purely to explore possible futures, challenge and stimulate strategic thinking. Use these at your own risk. Any reference to actual people, entities or events is entirely allegorical. Copyright Futureworld International Limited. Reproduction or distribution permitted only with recognition of Copyright and the inclusion of this disclaimer.