WASHINGTON (AP) â€” Space junk has made such a mess of Earth's orbit that experts say we may need to finally think about cleaning it up.
That may mean vacuuming up debris with weird space technology â€” cosmic versions of nets, magnets and giant umbrellas, according to the chairman of an expert panel that issued a new report on the problem Thursday.
There are 22,000 objects in orbit that are big enough for officials on the ground to track and countless more smaller ones that could do damage to human-carrying spaceships and valuable satellites. The International Space Station has to move out of the way of debris from time to time.
"We've lost control of the environment," said retired NASA senior scientist Donald Kessler, who headed the National Academy of Sciences report.
But two events in the past four years â€” a 2007 Chinese anti-satellite weapon test and a 2009 crash-in-orbit of two satellites â€” put so much new junk in space that everything changed, the report said. The widely criticized Chinese test used a missile to smash an aging weather satellite into 150,000 pieces of debris larger than four-tenths of an inch (1 centimeter) and 3,118 pieces can be tracked by radar on the ground, the report said.
Damn gubbermint can fuck shit up even in an empty vacuum.
I am speaking of the life of a man who knows that the world is not given by his fathers, but borrowed from his children; who has undertaken to cherish it and do it no damage, not because he is duty-bound, but because he loves the world and loves his children… - Wendell Berry, 1971