Humanity was very proud to enter the cosmic age just 60 years ago. Sputnik 1 was the first artificial Earth satellite and The Soviet Union launched it into an elliptical, low Earth orbit on October 4, 1957.
After traveling about 70 million km (43,500,000 miles) and doing really important scientific researches it was burned up on January 4, 1958, as it fell from orbit upon reentering Earth’s atmosphere.
After years of space pioneering, the area around the planet Earth is overfilled with tons of massive space debris of other famous space vehicles such as Vostok aircraft, International Space Station, and different planet rovers. The amount of space debris is seemingly insurmountable. The next big sacrifice will be Hubble Telescope. The most famous telescope of our time is turning 25 years old, and NASA doesn’t have any official plans for upgrading the telescope, meaning its hardware will grow old and out-of-date in the coming years. Without assistance, Hubble can’t maintain its orbit forever, and eventually Earth’s gravity will pull the telescope to a fiery death.
How could space debris be dangerous for us
You might think, that cosmos space is endless and comparatively tiny details could not harm it, that is furthest from the truth because systematic environmental changes have already begun.
Human created cosmic junk is made of high resistant materials and details could fly around the Earth for thousands or even millions of years. They constitute a permanent threat for active spacecraft and artificial satellites. According to the NASA research, the highest number of man-made space objects was 17,250 in 2015, and only 1,362 of them are active spacecraft.
The biggest cosmic junk danger is “Kessler syndrome” – each collision generating space debris that increases the likelihood of further collisions. So, without a solution to this problem, the cascading effect might be out of control very soon.
Elon Musk is known as on of the biggest modern space pioneers with his Mars colonization program. He is planning to build a huge space fleet, which will be used for constant traffic connection between Earth and Mars. Sounds like a great idea! Nevertheless, Space X space explorers must take increasing cosmic pollution into account in order to make transfer trajectories safe for people and don’t turn their company into the biggest cosmic junk generator.
What could be the solution?
In the next couple of decades it seems, humanity will be not able to solve this problem and the orbit of the Earth will be more and more polluted. The only possible solution is quite cinematic and inspired by the Hollywood movie “Armageddon”, where the easiest way to save our planet from a dangerous space object was to destroy it.
Space explorers are thinking of the possibility of an unmanned space station, which will be equipped with weapons for the destruction of both natural and man-made objects approaching the Earth. Not only will it clean our celestial space from dangerous space debris but it will also protect the Earth from big asteroids and, maybe, from extraterrestrial military threats.
At the moment, it sounds like a very Utopian project but maybe in couple of decades space junk problem will become humanity’s top priority.