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Space Junk 'Cleaning' Missions Urgently Needed

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the need-some-volunteer-space-garbagemen dept.

Space 165

Following a conference on space debris, the European Space Agency has warned that the amount of space junk floating around in orbit is a problem that needs to be dealt with 'urgently.' They are calling for a number of test missions to examine different methods of controlling or removing the debris. "Our understanding of the growing space debris problem can be compared with our understanding of the need to address Earth’s changing climate some 20 years ago," said Heiner Klinkrad, head of the agency's Space Debris office. A couple years ago we discussed an idea for de-orbiting space junk by hitting it with a laser to change its momentum. An Australian company has now received funding from NASA and the Australian government to try just that. "We've been developing tracking systems using lasers for some years, so we can actually track very small objects with a laser rangefinder to very high accuracy. ... If you allow that velocity to change over a period of perhaps 24 hours, then you can get actually a 100-meter shift in the location of an object to deflect it from colliding with another space debris object." Other plans are in development as well, and there currently exists an international guideline saying that new hardware must de-orbit and burn up in the atmosphere after 25 years of operation — but compliance is lagging. Meanwhile, collision events are becoming more common (PDF), and experts worry about the safety of the International Space Station and important satellites. "Their direct costs and the costs of losing them will by far exceed the cost of remedial activities."

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165 comments

Europe again (5, Funny)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about a year ago | (#43567603)

Why is it always up to Europe to clean up the rest of the world's mess?

Re:Europe again (1, Troll)

russotto (537200) | about a year ago | (#43567671)

It's not. RTFS: The Europeans do the whining, the Americans and the Australians do the work.

Re:Europe again (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43567749)

Really ?

Both of you tell, us more!

But your comment lacking any kind of thesis supporting argumentation like that of your predecessor.

Short: You are both continentalisticists ( nationalism does not apply to continents ;) ) that only think that the own mates are supperior to the other.

Btw. even living on different continents one should face the worst fact of all, we are living on the same earth.

Re:Europe again (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43567841)

Lick my balls.

Re:Europe again (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43568133)

Considering the carbon that he exhales with every breath spreads around the globe, travelling from his mouth into your pants, the good news is he already (by proxy) licked your balls and rimmed your crack for good measure. The bad news is - it works both ways...

That's the sign we live on one planet - we share the same air and eat our shared ancestors in one, global, natural recycling centre - the environment.

Re:Europe again (3, Insightful)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year ago | (#43567697)

Why is it always up to Europe to clean up the rest of the world's mess?

Because we're smarter and more capable than the rest of the world, that's why! So the duty naturally falls to us. We're also very humble about it and leave all the self-congratulation to Americans. What would they do without us?

Re:Europe again (2)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | about a year ago | (#43568061)

That "White Man's Burden" probably gets heavy after awhile, doesn't it?

Re:Europe again (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43568943)

Not really, the GP probably makes his black man servant carry it for him.

Re:Europe again (1)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | about a year ago | (#43567713)

"Our understanding of the growing space debris problem can be compared with our understanding of the need to address Earthâ(TM)s changing climate some 20 years ago,"

We're still denying there's a problem. There must be something wrong with your data.

Re:Europe again (2)

TechyImmigrant (175943) | about a year ago | (#43567909)

"Our understanding of the growing space debris problem can be compared with our understanding of the need to address Earthâ(TM)s changing climate some 20 years ago,"

We're still denying there's a problem. There must be something wrong with your data.

There is only a problem if you're in the business of putting satellites into orbit. I'm not. Most people aren't.

Re:Europe again (2)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | about a year ago | (#43567961)

True dat. Spoken like a true capitalist. And of course, I don't use weather or communication or TV satellites, either, so I don't need to worry about it.

Re:Europe again (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43569715)

Nothing wrong with capatilism, just heartles people, huge fucking difference comrade.

Re:Europe again (2)

quax (19371) | about a year ago | (#43568643)

Watched TV lately? Used a GPS? How about looked up a weather report?

If you haven't done any of this lately, then maybe you really don't need satellites.

Re:Europe again (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43570131)

Are we talking about needs as in "I need chocolate" or as in "we need to survive"?

Re:Europe again (1)

cdrudge (68377) | about a year ago | (#43570255)

Watched TV lately?

No, not really. Cut the cord some time ago. Mainly rely on streaming. Broadband is great in that regard.

Used a GPS?

No, not recently.
Cell tower triangulation and wifi assisted locating is usually enough.

How about looked up a weather report?

Not a weather report, but forecast sure. It was cool a few days ago, yesterday it was warmer so there's a decent chance that it was going to be warmer today since yesterday weather from the west was clear and warmer too. Today it was warmer indeed and pretty sunny, however the rain that ground radar is picking up over Illinois right now probably will make it's way over Northern Indiana sometime tonight, as that's where most weather this time of year comes from for us.

Re:Europe again (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43568733)

Yep, you're not using any of the stuff produced from space technology. I see that you have a nice cave there, best get back inside it.

Re:Europe again (1)

NemosomeN (670035) | about a year ago | (#43568827)

Hey, we already got Tang, everything else is just lagniappe.

Re:Europe again (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about a year ago | (#43569005)

It's a problem if you enjoy satellite delivered services like TV, telephony, semi-accurate weather forecasting etc.

Re:Europe again (1)

Brucelet (1857158) | about a year ago | (#43569951)

Weather and research satellites are going to be having trouble from budget shortfalls [nytimes.com] even without considering orbital debris problems.

Re:Europe again (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43568045)

Unlike global warming, which has yet to be proven, it's pretty easy to count space debris, calculate their trajectories, and spot them, and potentially remove them from orbit. Unlike global warming hypotheses which come from junk science and mass hysteria. Change it to "climate change" when it suits you. Guess what the climate has been changing for eons, and we've only had detailed records of it for a couple hundred years. So yeah, managing space debris is hard science, where climatology is a bit of a joke beyond spotting the weather a couple weeks out and predicting that we will have winter spring summer and fall.

Re:Europe again (1)

g0bshiTe (596213) | about a year ago | (#43567723)

Penance for giving the world a monarchy rule system.

It's a conspiracy! (0, Troll)

bussdriver (620565) | about a year ago | (#43567737)

Those scientists just want more grants and jobs to make more money at the tax payers' expense!

This is just like global warming; a big hoax conspiracy that will spread to every greedy scientist around the world to pull the wool over everybody's eyes. But unfortunately, we only have a small industry which can't afford to fund think tanks to counter the lies of these wealthy science organizations. We may lose to this fraud and be forced into paying a "space tax" to fund the cleaning of this fake problem - putting us out of business and killing off the private space industry.

It has happened before... ;-)

Tragedy of the commons (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43568023)

If we can't manage our common sky, even with so much of the investment controlled by the elite. How can we ever hope to manage the bigger mess down here?

Re:Tragedy of the commons (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | about a year ago | (#43568085)

Bigger mess down here? Just export it. Start colonies on Mars, the Moon, and some of those wonderfully earth-like moons orbiting the gas giants. Use them for penal colonies, so that if a colony is destroyed, we don't lose a whole lot. Just export the messes, like England did so long ago!

Re:Tragedy of the commons (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43569137)

No, no, no. You have it all wrong. Earth first! We'll strip mine the other planets later.

Re:Tragedy of the commons (1)

Brucelet (1857158) | about a year ago | (#43569965)

There's plenty of interesting moons in the Solar System, but not a single one I'd call "wonderfully earth-like".

Re:Europe again (0)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | about a year ago | (#43568049)

Europeans created most of the messes here on earth, so you can start making amends by cleaning up outer space.

And, yes, I want all my space debris cleaned. No one wants to look at old, cruddy, nasty trash floating around in space. Wax and buff, and make it PRETTY!!

Re:Europe again (2)

Dereck1701 (1922824) | about a year ago | (#43568159)

If I'm remembering my history correctly Europe has created its own share of messes that effected the rest of the world, WWI and WWII anyone?

Re:Europe again (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43570055)

I thought the Big Bang and the subsequent formation of the Solar System effected the world.

Re:Europe again (1)

bkmoore (1910118) | about a year ago | (#43569443)

Why is it always up to Europe to clean up the rest of the world's mess?

Because ....

  1. China says, "you Europeans had two centuries to make messes before you had to clean them up. We're still a developing country, maybe in two hundred years we'll start thinking about it. Can you give us licenses to all your cleaning up technology, so we can sell it to you?"
  2. U.S.A. says, "there is no mess to clean up. God made the world in seven days and he'll clean it up in six. Messes, pi, fluoride, the Metric System, Obama, etc. are all European-African socialist conspiracies."
  3. Kim Jung Un says, "I've got a BOMB and will make a big MESS, that is unless, the world pays me ONE MILLION DOLLARS!!!"
  4. Russia says, "America makes all the messes, let America clean them up."
  5. Israel says, "America please make more messes, especially in Iran."
  6. Iran claims, "we've hacked your mess and made it land in our country...btw. I've got a BOMB and will make a big MESS..."

I could go on, but want to get back to watching my Duke of Hazzard rerun.

Re:Europe again (2)

Nyder (754090) | about a year ago | (#43570973)

Why is it always up to Europe to clean up the rest of the world's mess?

Both world wars where a European mess. Not sure about WWI (public school education, they didn't teach us much), but WWII, we (the USA) cleaned up Europe's mess and it turned us into dickwads/bullies towards the world.

Planetes (4, Interesting)

bidule (173941) | about a year ago | (#43567611)

Re:Planetes (1)

dadelbunts (1727498) | about a year ago | (#43567775)

LOVE that anime. One of the best animes i have ever seen. And the fully enclosed smoking seat gave me hope for the future.

Re:Planetes (1)

garyok (218493) | about a year ago | (#43568029)

Seconded. I loved how well-realised it all was. Favourite thing was the progress bar for interplanetary video chat to let you know when you could expect a response.

Re:Planetes (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about a year ago | (#43568283)

It was well put together but the show was spoiled for me by the persistently gloomy message with each episode, it was a complete downer, unneccessarily so.

Re:Planetes (1)

dadelbunts (1727498) | about a year ago | (#43569751)

What about the moon ninjas. They eventually save the day.

Well , GOOD idea actually Space junk is expensive (1)

spineboy (22918) | about a year ago | (#43567995)

It should be a high priority to collect the debris, as it is quite valuable - it takes a lot on money to get stuff into orbit, and most of the stuff is probably space worthy material.

We shouldn't think of it as junk, but as free bulding material left around.

Re:Well , GOOD idea actually Space junk is expensi (3, Insightful)

Brucelet (1857158) | about a year ago | (#43569897)

In the real world, that's a whole lot harder than it sounds. It's easy enough to get to an arbitrary LEO satellite, assuming you know its orbit well enough, but any dismantling and reusing would be extraordinarily difficult. This counts doubly for decommissioned satellites or debris which could be tumbling in some arbitrary fashion with no way to control. Plus, manufacturing in space is really really hard, as we've learned over 30 years of the Space Shuttle and 15 of the ISS. You probably need to launch lots of equipment (plus maybe a human or two, though no existing manned vehicle is up to the task) to make it work, and now you're doing much more work and spending much more money than you would just building something from scratch. And then of course here's the kicker: you've done all this work, and now (assuming you didn't leave anything new behind) you've removed one single piece of space junk. With the mass you've already needed to bring up to do your repair/retrofit, it's highly unlikely you'll have fuel to get to another object in even a very close orbit, and so you have to head home and launch another mission. And another. For every single piece of junk out there. It'd be absolutely impossible to make this work on a large enough scale to do anything about the debris problem.

Space Quest (1)

puddingebola (2036796) | about a year ago | (#43567637)

Where's Roger Wilco, space janitor, when you need him?

Re:Space Quest (1)

g0bshiTe (596213) | about a year ago | (#43567717)

Gallagher: I prefer one moon, you know? That way you know what to call it: The Moon.
Lt. Ted Santen: [Over the radio] More color commentary from the space janitor.
Gallagher: The correct term is mechanical systems engineer.
Chip Pettengill: ....But he will accept space janitor.

From Red Planet.

Janitorial Service (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43567653)

Finally! Some janitors that might have pay competitive with those in the NYC Public School System! Wonder if they will sub-contract their work to others as well?

My Idea! (1)

g0bshiTe (596213) | about a year ago | (#43567685)

How about we just attach a giant magnet to the back of space craft similar to what you'd see behind the rear or front tires of an RV to pick up road debris before it punctures the tires.

Citation: http://www.google.com/patents/US3956111 [google.com]

Re:My Idea! (2)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about a year ago | (#43567965)

How about we just attach a giant magnet to the back of space craft similar to what you'd see behind the rear or front tires of an RV to pick up road debris before it punctures the tires.

That's a bit like trying to keep bullets from hitting you by fanning them away with a folded bit of paper. Actually, no... It's exactly like that.

Re:My Idea! (2)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | about a year ago | (#43568121)

I thought you were being just a little stupid. For almost two seconds I really thought that. Then - I realized that no matter how carefully you maneuver, no matter how closely you match orbits with the debris you plan on collecting - a frigging magnet isn't going to have any effect on most of the debris. Unless someone has been shooting iron cannonballs up into space.

Re:My Idea! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43568183)

I'm sure you are being funny. So no whoosh! please. But for those that don't realize that he is being funny - a magnet only attracts ferrous metals (think iron). There isn't much of that sent to space by mankind. Mostly we send things like titanium, aluminum, etc.

Re:My Idea! (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | about a year ago | (#43568813)

Ever tried to pick up a piece of aluminium with a magnet?

Re:My Idea! (1)

SeaFox (739806) | about a year ago | (#43569733)

How about we just attach a giant magnet to the back of space craft similar to what you'd see behind the rear or front tires of an RV to pick up road debris before it punctures the tires.

Ignoring that lots of the things that puncture tires will not react to magnets to begin with, how does the magnet being mounted behind the tires stop things from reaching them?

Too Little Too Late? (1)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about a year ago | (#43567691)

Perhaps this is something that should have been taken seriously 30 years ago? It will take at least that long to hone the technology and pry the funding from the tightwads that only approve of pork in their districts.

And, maybe NASA should jump at this - they seem to be in search of a mission and the dollars that go with it, maybe this is it?

Re:Too Little Too Late? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43567743)

Reading comprehension: don't post without it.

What am I saying; this is Slashdot. Carry on.

Re:Too Little Too Late? (0)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about a year ago | (#43567837)

Anonymous Coward == Asshole

Re:Too Little Too Late? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43568033)

Frosty Piss == Even less palatable than their namesake

Re:Too Little Too Late? (1)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about a year ago | (#43570393)

Spoken like a true Anonymous Coward.

Salvage 1 (2)

x3rc3s (954149) | about a year ago | (#43567715)

Sounds like a job for Andy Griffith http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salvage_1 [wikipedia.org]

Re:Salvage 1 (1)

Ferretman (224859) | about a year ago | (#43567945)

That was a great show back in the day.

Yes, mom. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43567721)

I'll start on it as soon as I finish this.

It Will Take a Headline to Get Anything Done (1)

mlookaba (2802163) | about a year ago | (#43567751)

"Their direct costs and the costs of losing them will by far exceed the cost of remedial activities."

Unfortunately, logic like that doesn't work on elected officials. It will probably take a tragedy and loss of life before people pay attention to the science behind this.

Re:It Will Take a Headline to Get Anything Done (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year ago | (#43567981)


"Their direct costs and the costs of losing them will by far exceed the cost of remedial activities."

Unfortunately, logic like that doesn't work on elected officials. It will probably take a tragedy and loss of life before people pay attention to the science behind this.

Is that a bet? GPS is pretty much baked into every piece of American military hardware large enough to house it, either as a near-necessity or a substantial convenience, and teams GLONASS and GALILEO(along with whatever the Indians and Chinese are calling their proposed regional systems these days) aren't exactly hobby projects, and has also crept into lots of expensive, long-term plans for air traffic control, decomissioning of certain older transponder location systems, etc. You've also got the definitely-not-officially-up-there; but highly valued, spy stuff that the NRO and NGA would be very sad about.

Sure, if a few esoteric scientific payloads were toasted, we'd probably fail to muster a yawn(breathing that deeply takes effort), and something like the ISS would muster a bit more publicity, but no real plans to do anything about it, since it's something of a white elephant. Even things like satellite phone, internet, and TV services might be ultimately considered disposable(the economics of just laying the cable and putting up the towers for terrestrial wireless aren't good enough now; but if the satellite attrition rate increased enough...), though they might hang on because of their utility in high-value sectors like petroleum and mineral extraction and military communications.

Satellite capabilities are baked sufficiently closely into more-or-less-sacred military budgets that it would be an extreme surprise to see lack of attention given to protecting at least individual satellites. It isn't clear that anybody would actually stump up for 'keep space open for the betterment of all mankind, etc.'; but much of the hardware in space has substantially more influential friends.

Re:It Will Take a Headline to Get Anything Done (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | about a year ago | (#43568137)

I wonder - what does Global Positioning become when you are no longer on the globe? Does it become Orbiting Positioning? Space positioning? Stellar positioning? Galactic positioning? Milky Way positioning - ooops, I'm hungry, be back later!

We need indeed more space junk! (0)

burni2 (1643061) | about a year ago | (#43567803)

So that no asshole can propose going to space to evade mankinds extinction as a good alternative .. till at least 1000yrs. have passed.

Within the meantime we should clean up our own mess(those that we built our life and and /.), the only space operations allowed shall be those to get a better understanding of the atmosphere & oceans (OFF EARTH not ALPHA PROXIMA).

Perhaps the workforce we say money can buy is better used on building a CO2 neutral, diseasefree world without the possiblity of nuclear plants running havok ..

Do you know what's similar between Japan and California ?
- devastating earthquakes
- nuclear power near the coast
- and tsunami

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0e/USA_Nuclear_power_plants_map.gif [wikimedia.org]

Re:We need indeed more space junk! (1)

dadelbunts (1727498) | about a year ago | (#43567911)

And then an asteroid comes and wipes us all out, or a megavolcano, or some other random event, and we are all stuck on this rock to die. Great idea guy.

Re:We need indeed more space junk! (3, Insightful)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | about a year ago | (#43568173)

Speaking of assholes - how have you been?

Mankind will never do what you dream of. No matter how far into space, no matter how far into the future mankind goes, he will always be a messy son of a bitch. Wars and fratricide. Drugs and prostitution. Theft and tax evasion. You name it - everything we've ever done wrong, we'll continue to do, to the end of time, and to the extreme edges of the universe. If we ever find alternate realities, or the dimensional doorways - we'll take all our baggage there too.

Apparently, you don't like mankind, as you want to ensure his extinction when that one big rock DOES hit the earth.

Re:We need indeed more space junk! (1)

Brucelet (1857158) | about a year ago | (#43569721)

"Let's make a big mess, to motivate ourselves to fix that other big mess."

Kessler syndrome is the real worry (5, Informative)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | about a year ago | (#43567835)

The worst case scenario is a Kessler syndrome event http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kessler_syndrome [wikipedia.org] . In this situation, a bad collision in low Earth orbit creates enough debris to trigger a series of collisions, each creating an expanding debris cloud. This could take most LEO satellites in a matter of days, and would render much of LEO effectively unusable for years. Part of the problem is that while there are a lot of possible orbits, the set of orbits which are both cheap to get to and practically useable is a much smaller set. And those orbits are almost precisely the orbits with a lot of debris. Right now, satellite are required to be able to move to either graveyard orbits or to be safely disposed in the atmosphere, but there are a lo of older satellites that were launched before any such requirement. And even with such plans, launches inevitably produce a few debris items with each launch, and satellites occasionally shed things. The early Delta rockets were very bad at producing a lot of debris, which contributed much of the current problem. Thee 2007 Chinese satellite test http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2007_Chinese_anti-satellite_missile_test [wikipedia.org] very much didn't help matters, and produced a massive still expanding cloud of debris. On the bright side, non-LEO orbits like geostat are still clean.

Re:Kessler syndrome is the real worry (4, Interesting)

thesupraman (179040) | about a year ago | (#43568099)

Nice SciFi, but only a little statistics will soon tell you that...
Space is big, really really big (even the prefered orbits).

To sustain the required chain reaction you need a WHOLE lot more junk, and you also need it to be in particular orbits (too much of it is in somewhat similar orbits..)

Its 'bad' right now because of the high cost of a VERY rare event (a significant energy impact), not because impacts are common.

Impacts also tend not NOT produce a cloud of high energy objects, most objects are metalic and tend to be punched through rather than shatter (yes, even at the cool side of orbital temperatures).

Of course plenty of people (governments, etc) realise that there is a fair bit of valuable 'junk' up there, and its value will rise in the future, however we will not see any mandate for collecting it and keeping in orbit for reuse, simply because a LOT of it is far too classified - even the commercial stuff - if China for example started collecting up old US sattelites, I suspect there would be trouble, etc.

The thing to remember is this 'global warming type emergency' is bring proposed by the head of a body who would get funding to work on it - sound at all surprising?

Re:Kessler syndrome is the real worry (0)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about a year ago | (#43568777)

if China for example started collecting up old US sattelites, I suspect there would be trouble, etc.

You think that would stop them? I suspect China would tell the US to go fuck off. Or would say "Think of it as repo for the money you owe us."

Re:Kessler syndrome is the real worry (2)

Brucelet (1857158) | about a year ago | (#43569605)

Do you have any idea how hard it is to "collect" a satellite? Sure' we've gotten quite good at rendezvousing with a specific object in a single orbit, but once you're there, it's incredibly difficult to dismantle and reuse materials. We have plenty of expertise in manipulating things that were designed to be repaired, and even in improvising repairs that weren't expected, but to build something new from old parts and materials would be something else entirely. Plus, even if you had some incredible repair/recycle mission worked out, all you've done is removed one single piece of space junk. Moving on to another would likely require a large change in your orbit, at which point your fuel margin vanishes quickly. Thus, you'd need nearly as many launches as there are satellites already up there to get everything. Good luck finding the funds and manpower.

Re:Kessler syndrome is the real worry (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43568673)

Fucking China. The world should take out every rocket leaving China before it reaches LEO until they find away to clean up their junk from that test. It's one thing to leave junk behind when we were just figuring out how to even get up there, but another to blow up a satellite just to show the world you can and to retard the progress of other nations that have more functional space programs.

So nothing will be done about it? (1)

aliquis (678370) | about a year ago | (#43569837)

"Our understanding of the growing space debris problem can be compared with our understanding of the need to address Earthâ(TM)s changing climate some 20 years ago,"

So nothing will be done about it? =P

Re:Kessler syndrome is the real worry (2)

aliquis (678370) | about a year ago | (#43569849)

Didn't the US blow one just after that?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USA-193#Destruction [wikipedia.org] ?

But sure, just complain on/mention the Chinese (stupid as it was regardless.)

Re:Kessler syndrome is the real worry (1)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | about a year ago | (#43569877)

USA-193 was in much lower orbit with the orbit already decaying so most of the debris burned up. In contrast, the Chinese test was in a stable orbit at the upper end of LEO and so produced a lot more long-term debris. That's not to say that USA-193 was at all a remotely good thing, but it was not nearly as bad.

Hmmm. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43567889)

How do we ship some chineese up there to do our recycling?

Re:Hmmm. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43570195)

Hmm. They'll release so much smog that air drag will increase and pull everything down. Then we can start over. A bit roundabout but I guess it works.

Cow magnets (1)

teaserX (252970) | about a year ago | (#43567931)

Like this [wikipedia.org] ....only REALLY BIG!

Well if we wouldn't have junked (1)

Stan92057 (737634) | about a year ago | (#43568147)

Well if we wouldn't have junked the shuttles, we could have used then as the earths trash trucks. Or just give the stuff a shove and burn it up in our atmosphere. Either way talking isnt going to get anything done. Just do it lol

When you know better (1)

Fuzzums (250400) | about a year ago | (#43568157)

When you know it's going to be a problem sooner or later, but you'd rather ignore it now.
space junk, energy, food, water, finances, republicans, windows xp, alcohol.

Overlooked (1)

dohzer (867770) | about a year ago | (#43568233)

Who was the fool that looked past using a laser and instead went for the 'net' or 'ballistics' options?

Magnets are the solution to every problem (1)

macraig (621737) | about a year ago | (#43568323)

I propose a giant electromagnet in orbit. Can it be solar powered? After enough junk has glommed onto it, either deorbit the whole mess or launch it at the moon. The moonfall is a better idea; then a new breed of prospectors would have a chance to reclaim the stuff.

Re:Magnets are the solution to every problem (3, Informative)

NF6X (725054) | about a year ago | (#43568403)

Call me when you come up with an electromagnet that attracts the aluminum, titanium, copper, carbon fiber composites and plastics that space vehicles are made from.

Seriously, I want one of those.

Re:Magnets are the solution to every problem (1)

macraig (621737) | about a year ago | (#43568659)

Seriously, I was kidding.

Re:Magnets are the solution to every problem (1)

NF6X (725054) | about a year ago | (#43569017)

Seriously, now I'm disappointed. :)

Re:Magnets are the solution to every problem (1)

macraig (621737) | about a year ago | (#43569457)

I look forward to your Kickstarted project to research and invent this new magnet-for-everything. Maybe we can just cover it in Velcro? Oh wait....

Re:Magnets are the solution to every problem (1)

NF6X (725054) | about a year ago | (#43570325)

That's it! From now on, we need to make our satellites out of Velcro.

Too bad 'space' doesn't also mean 'oceans' (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43568371)

Too bad 'space' doesn't also mean 'oceans'. If every country facing the each ocean could send 1 ship each month, and collect a mere 1 ton of plastic from the mid-atlantic and mid-pacific 'sewer', we could have all the plastic removed from the worlds oceans in as little as 50 years! Instead, the plastic continues to kill creatures by the millions. Its bad that we kill so many creatures wastefully for our needs. Its much worse that we kill so many more creatures needlessly because of our bad habits.

Star Wars Technology (1)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | about a year ago | (#43568385)

How about using some of Regan's star wars technology? Not to blow stuff up, but to give it a hard push with powerful lasers or xray beams. Push the small stuff into a degrading orbit to burn up in the atmosphere. It would be easier to target the small stuff like since you don't have to be close to it to give it a nudge. Once the little pieces are cleaned up, they can go after the less prevalent bigger pieces.

value of space junk (1)

westcountyboy (2659135) | about a year ago | (#43568539)

Probably some of the satellites have value to fix or parts. Especially the dead surveillance and intelligence satellites. Who owns salvaged satellites or parts ? Only maybe they have tamper mechanism, boom.

Re:value of space junk (1)

Brucelet (1857158) | about a year ago | (#43569673)

I wouldn't be so sure. Spy tech evolves pretty fast. I don't see any reason someone would want to use a 20 year old camera in orbit, difficult to reach and not designed for reuse, instead of launching a new one that's better. Any money you save on not launching a new satellite is spent on your repair mission instead, and it's a lot more effort to end up with something less capable.

Nasa's current budget (1)

eWarz (610883) | about a year ago | (#43568581)

with NASA's current budget, there is no way we US citizens can tackle this. If they want to solve this, they need to give NASA more funding.

One option (2)

Dereck1701 (1922824) | about a year ago | (#43568583)

I wonder if anyone has looked into placing a satellite into orbit that was able to fire extremely precise mist clouds of some liquid. It would be launched either in a polar orbit or an opposite orbital direction from most satellites. It would fire the mist clouds into the path of a piece of debris and the energy imparted (~17,000 to ~34,000 MPH relative speed) on it from the mist would eventually cause it to deorbit. The best liquid for this would probably be something that remains a liquid on the dark side of the orbit, but evaporate on the light side to presumably self deorbit if it did not hit the debris in question, and of course be cheap (maybe some kind of cooking oil?). The satellite would have to have a pretty sophisticated tracking and targeting system but its probably not out of reach. The hardest thing I imagine would be to target the clouds precisely enough and make them small enough at the required distances (several miles) and speeds so that they only effect the target debris. After the satellite ran out of liquid it could either be refilled, or self deorbit by changing orientation to fire shortly before it ran out of liquid into its orbit instead of perpendicular to it.

Re:One option (1)

Brucelet (1857158) | about a year ago | (#43569689)

A light mist on earth hits pretty hard at 34,000 MPH. All you're doing is adding more debris and exacerbating the problem.

Re:One option (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43570023)

Liquid? In a vacuum?

cheaper solution (1)

iggymanz (596061) | about a year ago | (#43568699)

just shoot down any satellite the Chinese send up, they've lost the right to use the shared orbital space of this earth with their irresponsible creation of horrendous debris field

Re:cheaper solution (3, Informative)

Dereck1701 (1922824) | about a year ago | (#43568959)

You do realize that the Chinese "contribution" to the space debris problem is relatively insignificant compared to the amount of debris placed in orbit by the US and Russia right? I'm not saying it shouldn't be condemned, but the fact that they created 2% of the problem in one idiotic act compared to decades of continual stupidity by the US & Russia space agencies shouldn't given undue weight.

Re:cheaper solution (1)

Brucelet (1857158) | about a year ago | (#43569745)

This will not exacerbate the problem in any way

Space Junk Energy Shield (1)

natex84 (706770) | about a year ago | (#43568819)

Maybe some of the space junk will reflect some of the sun's light energy and reduce global warming...

That's nice.. but (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43569209)

How about some acknowledgement of there being a secret space program that makes the shuttles look like tinker toys, a break-away civilization that is completely separate from what we know as civilization, and that NASA is still ran by NAZI's and their descendants? We have the technology that would make problems like this vanish like taking out the weekly trash , except 1000000 times more efficient.

All signs point to Majestic/powers that be doing what they please, and if one of these debris hit earth, they will be laughing sitting in their own power network / underground bases, and the tons of other shit that has been built. (paid for by your tax dollars in black budget funds and drug dealing cia money by the way)

Rocket Magnets (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43570043)

Easy - deploy a battery of rocket-powered electromagnets, and another (autonomous vehicle?) to deploy nets that can snag up the rest into chunks, that way they're at least out of the way - and time may allow them to aggregate for further processing (space rotor shear?).

Kessler Syndrome - feedback runaway space debris (1)

pyalot (1197273) | about a year ago | (#43570059)

It's theorized that this is a possibility where collisions between space debris produce more debris and rise the likelyhood of further collisions. This would lead to a rapid feedback loop as collisions cascade. This would likely render space travel impossible for the next couple thousand years. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kessler_syndrome [wikipedia.org]
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