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Space Junk


Space junk is a potential threat to human space exploration. In the frictionless vacuum of space, even a small particulate left behind by a past voyage can become deadly, fracturing seals and damaging the integrity of any spacecraft as it travels at extremely high speeds. So far, we’ve been relatively lucky—the sheer size of space enables us to mostly not worry about it yet. That said, certain highly contested orbits, such as geostationary orbits, may be at risk from space debris as development of space continues. As such, it is imperative that a solution be found to clear space and allow easy access to space. A few technological solutions exist that may be useful. First, there is the potential to use lasers to steer debris out of the path of orbits or vaporize it to the point it’s harmless. Nets may be used to capture debris, and harmlessly decelerate it out of orbit. However, more important than junk removal is junk tracking. The ability to tell where debris is and isn’t is invaluable, as it permits avoidance much more cheaply than the high-tech strategies. NASA and the DOD share responsibility for tracking every object in the night sky larger than a softball and are working to ensure space flights don’t aggravate the problem further. While space debris may not be a major issue yet, it’s critical we keep our eye on the problem.


Published by remieri

Vanderbilt Physics and Economics Major.

One thought on “Space Junk

  1. Hey, I think this topic is very intriguing. I’ve never thought that issues we encounter on Earth, such as litter and debris, are issues that we could encounter in space already and it is a pertinent issue. The point you made about any damage to any technology we have in space could be detrimental really stood out to me. There could be lives aboard those technologies and if not, the amount of resources put into a technology that is damaged by space debris could potentially go to waste. The solutions proposed are also interesting as they resemble, somewhat, what many have proposed here on Earth. Altogether, this is a new topic for me that I definitely look forward to hearing about and reading up on. Thank you for introducing it to me!


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