Humans routinely send spacecraft into orbit to ensure services on the ground and to explore other planets. This extraordinary ability comes with a great responsibility: our space activity risks contaminating the space surrounding the Earth, but also other planets and moons that have potential for past or present life.
Space benefits humanity by making many of our activities on Earth possible: telecommunication, weather forecasting, geolocation through the global navigation satellite system used for ground, maritime and air traffic, as well as remote sensing for monitoring the health of our planet. At the same time, scientific missions increase our knowledge of our solar system, while enabling the development of new technologies, science and space exploration.
However, increased space activity comes at a cost, both in terms of fuel consumption for spacecraft and space debris produced. This debris is in the form of spacecraft abandoned at the end of its operational life, or remainders of space missions and upper stages of launchers, along with all the fragments resulting from collisions and explosions in orbit.
The very existence of the more than 900,000 pieces of debris larger than 1 centimetre in size – large enough to damage operational satellites due to their high orbital speed – poses a serious threat to the sustainability of space activities. The amount of space debris has been rising exponentially, according to the European Space Agency (ESA).
An environmental problem
Interestingly, the growth in space debris has followed a similar trend to many other environmental stressors such as carbon dioxide, ocean acidification, tropical forest loss and terrestrial biosphere degradation. Indeed, all these issues have several aspects in common. Given their global nature, the solutions require strong international cooperation for defining mitigation measures. Indicators of this problem that are relevant, accepted, credible, easy to monitor and robust against manipulation and errors must be agreed upon internationally.
The space debris problem also compels us to use radar and visual telescopes to determine the orbit of space debris, and to develop mathematical and numerical approaches to model their evolution in space and time, as well as tools for collision-avoidance and end-of-life manoeuvres. Many uncertainties must be taken into account in the predictions, such as the Earth’s atmosphere and its interaction with the solar activity, the physical characteristics of uncooperative objects, and untraceable fragments, which make it impossible to achieve a perfect prediction of the debris’ orbit and evolution.
Image Credit: ESA
News This Week
There is no vaccine or specific treatment for COVID-19, the disease caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, or SARS-CoV-2. Since the outbreak began in late 2019, researchers have been racing to [...]
Corona Virus (COVID 19) Interview with Michael Osterholm an expert in infectious disease epidemiology.
Michael Osterholm is an internationally recognized expert in infectious disease epidemiology. He is Regents Professor, McKnight Presidential Endowed Chair in Public Health, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy [...]
With the new coronavirus spreading from person to person (possibly including from people without symptoms), reaching four continents, and traveling faster than SARS, driving it out of existence is looking increasingly unlikely. It’s still [...]
Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine (WFIRM) scientists have improved upon the 3D bioprinting technique they developed to engineer skeletal muscle as a potential therapy for replacing diseased or damaged muscle tissue, moving another [...]
An international team of scientists from the University of Southampton, the University of Padova, and the University of Zurich has connected a silicon neuron to a neuron from the rat hippocampus with an artificial [...]
In an insightful 42-minute interview, NMIN’s Scientific Director Dr. Pieter Cullis, a pioneer in liposomal gene and drug delivery, discusses his scientific career with a focus on his contributions to the evolution of [...]
A powerful antibiotic that kills some of the most dangerous drug-resistant bacteria in the world has been discovered using artificial intelligence. The drug works in a different way to existing antibacterials and is the [...]
Artificial intelligence hit a big milestone in January — the first drug designed entirely using artificial intelligence entered human clinical trials. The compound, created by Oxford-based biotech company Exscientia, is aimed at treating obsessive-compulsive [...]
Researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in the US have uncovered the ‘Achilles’ heel’ of most viruses which plague mankind, and could soon develop a universal vaccine. Vaccine research, development and testing takes [...]
Every age in the history of human civilisation has a signature material, from the Stone Age, to the Bronze and Iron Ages. We might even call today’s information-driven society the Silicon Age. Since the [...]
CRISPR gene-edited immune cells have been injected into three people with advanced cancer without any serious side effects, the first trial of its kind in the US. It is also the first CRISPR cancer [...]
“We’ll have nanobots that… connect our neocortex to a synthetic neocortex in the cloud. Our thinking will be a…. biological and non-biological hybrid.” Ray Kurzweil, TED 2014 UPDATE - February 9 2020 Since [...]
Frank Boehm (NanoApps Medical Inc. founder) and Amanda Scott (NA CEO) join NanoApps Athletics Inc. NanoApps Athletics Inc proposes a unique synergistic biochemical/nanomedical strategy for the expedited repair and healing of Achilles tendon micro [...]
In her inaugural podcast, Jamilee interviews Frank Boehm of NanoApps Medical Inc and NanoApps Athletics Inc. From Jamilee's podcast: Welcome to the first episode of "In a Click". On todays show I chat with [...]
Using straightforward chemistry and a mix-and-match, modular strategy, researchers have developed a simple approach that could produce over 65,000 different types of complex nanoparticles, each containing up to six different materials and eight segments, [...]