Unfortunately, I don’t have any juicy updates to yesterday’s meteorites story. (No tri-pods yet.) However, a New York Times Web article titled “Orbiting Junk, Once a Nuisance, Is Now a Threat” caught my eye. The article explains and illustrates what a huge problem the man-made space junk littering space around our planet has become.
During an eight year period ending in 2002, the solar panels on the Hubble Telescope were struck by space debris at least 725,000 times. Five thousand of these left craters and holes large enough to be seen by the naked eye.
In addition, experts believe that a piece of orbital debris might one day create a large enough collision capable of starting a chain reaction, “a slow cascade of collisions that would expand for centuries, spreading chaos through the heavens.” Apparently, China recently tested an antisatellite rocket that shattered an old satellite into hundreds of large individual fragments that could trigger this chain reaction sooner than later.
If nothing is done, a kind of orbital crisis might ensue that is known as the Kessler Syndrome, after Mr. Kessler. A staple of science fiction, it holds that the space around Earth becomes so riddled with junk that launchings are almost impossible. Vehicles that entered space would quickly be destroyed.
On the bright side, if the Kessler Syndrome does come to pass, we won’t have to worry about those pesky Martians and their tri-pods coming down to attack us any longer. Right?