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The nightmare described in “Gravity” is in fact reality: fragments of missiles or satellites in orbit around the Earth pose a constant threat to our space installations. What can we do to clean up our space mess?
Today, the problem of rubbish in space has become a nightmare for astronauts. The amount of debris in space has been steadily increasing for the past 20 years as more and more satellites have been placed in orbit and numerous missiles have been tested. In 2009, two working satellites collided sending tons of new space trash into orbit travelling at an incredible speed. This kind of event creates a vicious circle as each time debris collides, more and more waste is produced. All those involved in the conquest of space are now forced to monitor the clouds of waste constantly and to divert their working satellites in case of emergency. But many satellites have been “forgotten” and will inevitably cause collisions. Currently, all efforts to minimize or avoid this debris are inadequate and may have heavy consequences on our satellites and other activities on Earth. It’s high time we cleaned up our space mess! Throughout the world, engineers have been coming up with more and more inventive schemes to clear the space trash and put their inventions to the test: magnetic nets in Japan, disintegrating lasers in Australia, garbage collecting satellites in Switzerland, waste hunting vessels in Europe and gas atomizing rockets in the USA. Star wars will not happen… but the war on waste has been declared.