Space Debris Becoming an Environmental Concern

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OK, so this TreeHugger article might be painting an extreme picture, but there is a trend here that is hard to overlook.  The article is about space junk; man-made objects that are littering the “final frontier”.  According to the article, Professor Walter Flury from the European Space Agency (ESA) estimates that the 10,000 pieces of space litter which were catalogued at the end of 2003, are made up of the following:

o         41% – miscellaneous fragments 
o         22% – old spacecraft
o         13% – missions related objects
o         7% – operational aircraft
o         7% – rocket bodies

The article reports that already space debris has caused some damage.  The Hubble’s antenna wears a hole that is over 1cm in diameter and windows on the Space Shuttle have been replaced 80 times due to damage caused by objects measuring less than 1mm.  

The European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) uses dedicated software to warn of potential collisions, which is reported in a computer-generated e-mail each day to the operations staff.  The fact that this system is in place would imply that damage from space debris is a concern. 

Comments posted on the story basically highlighted two main points of opinion; the first being that the article was exaggerating the issue with a “who cares” attitude, and second, that even though it poses no impact on our lives (yet), the trend of us humans leaving a mess in every frontier we touch is undeniably evident. 

I’ll leave you with the articles and pictures and your own thoughts on the matter.  I’m sure there are ways that we can leave no or at least a minimal trail of destruction and mess, that won’t come with a price tag of a blown-out budget or the loss of precious convenience.  And yes, with the environment now a hot topic, we are making great inroads to rectify the damage to our environment.  On the upside, if mankind ever gets lost (though I can’t imagine how that could even happen), at least we won’t be hard to find, we leave a trail that blinks like Las Vegas Blvd.

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