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article imageOp-Ed: Japan volunteers to clean up space debris — with a net

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By Paul Wallis     Feb 3, 2011 in Technology
Somebody, finally, has come up with an idea to get rid of the millions of live bullets orbiting Earth. The fact that this idea has come from the Japanese, who have contributed far less space garbage than Russia and the United States, says volumes.
To quote The Sydney Morning Herald:
“The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Nitto Seimo Co, a fishing net company, are planning to tackle the increasingly hazardous problem of debris that threatens to wreck space shuttles and satellites.”
"Increasingly hazardous" means that the extremely large numbers of micro particles and much bigger objects left over from previous space missions are quite literally putting holes in extremely valuable hardware, including the space station's stabilizers.
The most likely reason that Japan has come up with this idea is that the US and others, after decades of bitching about the subject, haven't made the slightest attempt to do a damn thing about it.
It also means that space missions now have to try to navigate their way through a literal obstacle course. Satellites have gone off-line for "unknown reasons" while sailing through the equivalent of an eternal machine gun barrage of particles moving at approximately 50,000 miles an hour.
This level of disorganization may have been "quaint" in the 1960s, but now it's inexcusable. It is putting lives at risk, and the billions of dollars worth of equipment being sent up on an annual basis into space is also at risk.
The main reason for the net idea is to track small but highly kinetic objects which will leave holes like bullet holes in things like the Hubble telescope antenna. Of all the no-brainers in an increasingly brainless space industry which is more obsessed with bean counting than practicalities, this is probably the most obvious.
The other mysteries, like the insistence on using stunningly inefficient rockets and the apparently obsessive refusal to develop existing alternative drives, could be put down to old-fashioned stupidity, but the space junk problem has now been around for 20 years. Billions of dollars worth of valuable equipment have to navigate this very dangerous garbage every year.
It's a bit like buying a new car and sending it to a missile firing range. People are prepared to spend huge amounts of money on space hardware, and yet find it difficult to believe that millions of objects traveling at 50,000 miles an hour could be a problem? They then claim to have some idea of how to manage budgets while turning local space into a wreckers yard.
Russia and the United States should contribute something other than disingenuous babble regarding space junk clearance. They, after all, have contributed most of it, and bits and pieces that their garbage have been coming down all over the planet.
Some way of removing old satellites and other orbit-encroaching obstacles should also be considered. The space junk is as much a museum as a mess, and let's face it, new satellites are going to have to be put somewhere. This garbage is taking up useful geostationary positions and orbits, as well as being a life-threatening risk.
The most likely objection to cleaning up space garbage is that it will cost money. The answer to that objection is that it will definitely cost a lot more money in terms of damage, course management, and quite probably lives if it isn't cleaned up.
Another good idea would be getting rid of the geriatric, brain dead wannabe accountants getting in the way of efficient space travel. This is serious business, worth multiple billions of dollars and idiots are not in demand. If the world actually needs more idiots, it can probably find some new ones from somewhere.
The most useful approach to future space junk would be to establish an international monitoring agency with the resources to plot and deal with the junk as it’s identified. The space around Earth is like a pigsty, and that's just not good enough.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
article:303278:30::0
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