Our daily lives on Earth depend on satellites in space. Weather forecasting, telecommunications, GPS, and increasingly the internet too. But defunct craft, discards from old launches, and smashed debris from collisions are filling the skies. Even astronauts on the International Space Station have to conduct special maneuvers to avoid larger chunks or hide out in their docked Soyuz spacecraft until junk passes by. The sky once seemed so vast, but today, we’ve cluttered it up with millions of pieces of trash.
We may even be limiting our ability to travel into space.
Spacecraft to clean up the mess are being designed and tested. Here’s one international effort about to launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Ultimately, such craft will attempt to attach to dead satellites and push them toward Earth to burn up in the atmosphere. Eek! I hope they take the size of whatever survives to crash on land into consideration. But first comes a test using two devices:
Using a magnetic docking technology, the servicer will release and try to “rendezvous” with the client, which will act as a mock piece of space junk [and] carry out this catch and release process repeatedly over the course of six months. NPR
What a great basis for science fiction, don’t you think? I’m currently writing a story that launches newly minted pilot Winnie Bravo to clean up space junk. She’s based on the Moon, and there’s more than orbiting debris to worry about. Her space adventure turns deadly. The book will be released later this year, but you don’t have to hold your breath waiting! Subscribe today to my newsletter and I’ll keep you posted, but I’ll never sell your address or pester you with spam (promise, I’m too busy writing.)