FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Orbiting Junkyard Poses Danger to Space Flight

Fifty years ago, not a single man-made object orbited the earth. Now, approximately 10,000 pieces of "space junk" remain in orbit -- everything from spent rockets to dead satellites to a camera. With more nations getting into space for business and military purposes, the orbiting junk pile will grow exponentially -- especially as nations test antisatellite weapons and explode satellites the way that China did recently.

Scientists worry that the number of junk objects could grow into the billions, threatening active satellites and spacecraft and making space flight increasingly dangerous. They also worry that collisions could create even more space "shrapnel" that simply adds to the risk. The ultimate fear is that, to remain safe, spacecraft will need so much protective shielding as to make them cost-prohibitive.

Source: New York Times