That’s a lot of junk

The biggest problem for space travel now is the amount of space junk around the earth, some Chinese scientists claim they have the answer.


Earth Space Junk (Photo credit by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/JSC)











Mankind’s dream of exploration didn’t end with the earth’s continents, space was only a matter of time.  In the words of the great Captain Kirk, “to boldly go where no man has gone before.”

But after 60 years of attempts, the amount of space junk we have left in our atmosphere trying to get to space has become our greatest problem with space travel.

Orbital debris or space junk is pieces of rockets and old satellites that are whizzing by at around 28,200 km/h, NASA reported. They added that in 2013 there was more than 500,000 pieces of human-made debris.

As we increase our space missions which NASA and Space X intend on doing, the mess needs to be cleaned up. Now troubles with rockets are beginning to occur. “In fact, a number of space shuttle windows have been replaced because of damage caused by material that was analyzed and shown to be paint flecks,” said NASA officials.

Ideas on how to clean it up have ranged from giant magnets, nets and even harpoons. But China claims they have an idea on how to fix the problem.

Quan Wen, a researcher from China’s Air Force Engineering, has put forth a proposal for a study called “Impacts of orbital elements of space-based laser station on small scale space debris removal”.

What they are proposing is the use of an orbital station with a high-powered pulsed laser. Wen and his team say it could make a large dent in the orbital debris.

The laser would change the trajectories of the space junk causing them to drop into the lower atmosphere and burn up without any of them coming close to the height of planes max height.

This is also the first time China has tried to solve the problem showing how far the nation has come in it’s space program.

This initiative by China might be because they caused over 3000 bits of dangerous debris with one launch of an anti-satellite missile test. The debris cloud was the largest ever tracked.

With new technology the threat of nations militarizing it is always a fear. If China made the laser a weapon it would be against the 1966 Outer Space Treaty which was signed to prevent space exploration to become the latest Cold War.

U.S. General John Hyten said in an interview that CNN says he’s sure that China is attempting to develop a space laser that would break this treaty. “They’re building those capabilities to challenge the United States of America, to challenge out allies, we cannot allow that to happen.”

Space exploration is still subject to earthly politics, but this issue is not country specific and could unite some nations over this common goal of removing this junk.

Cooperative efforts are needed for this clean up or we will continue to accuse nations of trying to gain a military step up.