Interagency Space Debris Coordination Committee, Brian Weeden, Hubble Space Telescope discussed on Part Time Genius

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That one satellite got turned into 3000 things. And that's just the things we can track. Was it space junk? A big part of the movie Gravity you are remembering correctly. Debris from the missile strike has caused a chain reaction, hitting other satellites and creating new debris. 2013 Hollywood movie. It begins with a chatty George Clooney and Sandra Bullock servicing the Hubble Space Telescope gazing contentedly back at Earth. This huge cloud of debris for a missile strike rips through communications blackout. It's a bad situation happen. North America just lost their Facebook explain. This dramatic portrayal definitely raised the profile of space junk. Even if the portrayal wasn't very accurate, I think maybe on the whole it has been a good thing before the issue, even if I might grab a little bit. Scientists love to grumble. That's Brian Weeden again. He's now the director of program planning for the Secure World Foundation thinks a lot about sustainability in space. And he says that opening scene in gravity doesn't capture the true problem. Over the breather. Catch them was portrayed as sort of Ah nuclear chain reaction. Right? There's one event that sets off this series of things that all happened very fast. The reality is sort of the opposite. Where it's like climate change. The problem with space junk is it's a long, relatively slow accumulation over decades with a big negative impact down the road. Got it. Yeah. So Brian says mitigating the risk of space junk involves convincing people launching satellites, governments and companies. Change their behavior now mindful of the future and maybe have a little inconvenience or a little more cost now. Forestall bad things in the future, and that's a really difficult argument to make because we humans just aren't engineered to kind of think like that Preach, especially when nothing truly catastrophic has happened. Yet, but space junk is already proving to be problematic. In the short term, it's translating into real world costs. A satellite operators field alerts about potential collisions. Do you do I change my satellites orbit? Because that cost fuel and that will shorten the lifetime. Your satellite, which isn't good for the commercial space economy, which is kind of booming right now. Yeah, we did That episode all about how space sex is going to put a bunch of satellites up there, Right? You know, in the long term space junk has the potential to not only collide with manned spacecraft like the international space station but threatens satellites at all levels of orbit. Like those used for imaging and weather data collection, which then could mean our climate models are less accurate. Or we don't have a good way to track emitters, and that could have a negative impact on the road. Yeah, we're gonna need that data We are. But here's the thing. There's no international regulation for how satellites should operate. There's only guidelines guidelines yes guidelines from the Interagency Space Debris Coordination Committee for mitigating the Risk of debris. Things like de Orbit your satellite after 25 years by burning it up for bringing it down. Passive, ate the upper rocket stage me invent all the remaining fuel or training the batteries, so it's not his exploding. Yes, so there's less risk for debris. Countries do this, but it's totally voluntary. It's up to each individual nation to implement. So until there's greater accountability, space junk will continue to be a problem. Okay. We've talked about the problem. Give me a solution calling, like what is being done to clean up this junk. Well, we're not seeing much in the skies. There's been demonstrations of different cleanup technologies on Earth that could be used in space magnets. Deployable nets, harpoons, a little space fission. Yeah. In the orbital See? Most of this clean of technology is being developed in Europe and Japan. But here's the thing we don't know what's the best way to yank this swiftly moving debris out of orbit to a place where it can safely burn up. You would need a high level of precision to remove that junk without creating more of it. And I feel like that would take a lot of money to pull that off. Yes. So it was a pretty big deal. When last December the Europeans keep listening. You can hear the rest of this podcast all of its episodes and discovered thousands of others. All available to you for free right now by downloading the I heart radio app number one for podcasts..

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