Spent Rockets and Redundant Satellites in Space
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When rockets and shuttles are launched into space they are accompanied by various rocket stages, fuel tanks and engines. These are needed to get out of the earth's atmosphere and to counter gravity.
The problem is that these parts are too heavy to carry around in orbit, so these appendages are left behind.
These objects are left in orbit, and are supposed to re-enter the earths atmosphere, burn up and render themselves harmless.
The problem is that these chunks of metal orbit at enormous speeds, up to 20 000 mph or 5 miles a second. This, as you can imagine is an unbelievably dangerous situation to encounter even though the shuttle can achieve these speeds as well. Of course an old fuel tank could crack 22 000 mph and wipe out a rocket and its crew.
At the moment there are thought to be at least 10 000 fuel tanks, rocket boosters and engines orbiting earth and it is only going to be a matter of time until the first major collision between, for example a shuttle and a piece of space trash, as it is affectionately known.
It is thought that every 9 years, the amount of space debris doubles. Complementing that hideous fact is the increase of celestial travel, which is expected to decrease that timespan significantly very soon.
Due to the great expanse that space covers, the heavenly bodies are spread out
over millions of light-years and are therefore not a worry at the
The most damaging consequences that the space trash will cause will probably
involve us on earth. In typical human fashion we seem to have shot
ourselves in the foot once again.
Yet another mistake has surfaced recently, and incredible as it may sound reports have been made that there have even been rubbish capsules sent into space containg volatile chemicals. Not only this but there are thought to be Russian spycraft, leaking radioactive material into space.
In our view the space trash problem is a significant mistake
that we have made in the space age. It is one that needs to be taken
incredibly seriously and some serious money has to be put towards the cure.
If they can find one.
Clearly the only way to prevent the rocket stages and satellites from roaming around space is to get them back to earth. This poses a 'catch 22' situation, because to get something into space at the moment you have to drop a rocket booster stage in space. So what clearly needs to be done is to find a solution to the rocket booster stage problem.
Possibly the rockets could rendevous with the rocket stage on entering the earth's atmosphere again, however to pull that off is almost impossible because of the incredible speeds that the rockets travel at.
Personally I think that an alternative method of launching should be investigated. Surely there is another way of getting the shuttles out into orbit. If it is not an available option at the moment, possibly there should be a reduction of launches. If it is absolutely neccessary to launch, a detailed check should be made to ensure that the debris is kept to a minimum. Maybe the stages could be equipped with their own engine to get them back into the atmosphere where they will burn up.
At the moment there seems to be no way of getting the stages and satellites back to earth or to destroy them without making more smaller debris. It is a great challenge and is still going to be a while until we figure out a solution, but if everyone keeps it on their minds and thinks about it for a while, we are sure to come up with an answer.