Race to blast space junk from the skies
Radical plan after Great Space Crash of 2020
Forget bonfire night! This year the heavens are lit up like fireworks as five companies race to blast dangerous space debris from the skies with powerful lasers.
It all started back in 2010 when various scientists proposed ambitious plans to clear the skies of space junk that was threatening low orbiting satellites. And in 2014 Australian scientists came up with a concrete plan to track, map and zap the debris.
But progress was slow as conservative space agencies weighed up possible risks, while many people worried about space lasers being re-purposed by the military.
Few of us realized just how many hundreds of thousands of pieces of junk there were in space, from big chunks of spacecraft to minuscule paint flecks. And few realized the danger until the Great Space Crash of 2020!
Hundreds of smaller collisions had already taken place over the years, unnoticed except by rocket scientists. But when a Russian satellite was smashed from its orbit by a large piece of debris, causing a ‘cascade of collisions’ with American, Indian and European satellites, the impact was felt on earth as communications networks in dozens of countries faltered and failed.
International space agencies quickly licensed five companies to start the map-and-zap program, and this January, the fireworks began. It will take the better part of the year to clear the larger pieces of debris, with ongoing clean-ups scheduled until better ways are found to prevent junk build-up.
By now our phones and tablets are back online, as new satellites have taken to the air – and now we’re getting a free light show to boot!
Warning: Hazardous thinking at work
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