Space has a trash problem -- and its getting worse
With me. Is johnson skillings. One of our copy cheese and the of our latest package on satellites titled signals from earth. Welcome john hey roger so we sometimes take for granted. Space has well allow space. But there's actually a huge amount of trash orbiting earth and that's the subject of the first story in a series way exactly is floating up there a lot and stuff. I mean we think about space is being infinite and it is but then there's our neighborhood right around earth And there are several layers orbit and everything not everything from the beginning the space age but a lot of stuff from the sixties and seventies eighties is still up there and we're talking about rockets satellites and big things like the international space station and then little tiny pieces that have broken off from all those things and so how big of a problem is this. The the sheer amount of stuff. That's up there. Yeah it's it's really big because it's all just spinning around eight skates controlled release trapped by different space agencies by not we do dubai right now and things are going to bump into each other and that could be bad yet. Tell me a little bit about that. Why why is it bad thing as it. Just the potential damage. I mean how big of a problem is it for these existing satellites. Give me a sense of actually. How many lives are up there right now. Year right now. There are a roughly twenty eight hundred live satellites and perhaps three times that many defunct satellites still floating around and not a lot of human traffic there right now going in and out of the space station and for the people for too long there might be some space tourists going out there. So you know. There are people who get into trouble but also a lot of machinery and they're more more salads coming up all the time if there's a sense of how may more we expect. 'cause feels like we're say launching new satellites will explore on your services running off these satellites. What what exactly is sort of the the expected volume of satellites over the coming years. It's a lot. It's hard to put a number to it. You have more and more countries all the time starting own space agencies or saying rockets up then you have commercial space traffic which is not done by the likes of nasa the european space agency. You have private. Companies like yuan musk's space x Jeff bezos and amazon. And all his money going into Rocket projects on its own in space x in particular. They have a new system called starling which is going to provide broadband service to the earth. Eighteen beta right. Now there are about six hundred or so satellites And they're going to be a lot more i mean. Musk has filed paperwork to send up as many as forty thousand of these Satellites are not not be car sized space station size but you know a chunk of metal floating around of their forty thousand is eight a huge number no matter how big or little that satellite is reading this piece and this is by jackson ryan one of our colleagues out of australia. Who is fantastic. These worth reading if the another chance. He talked to nasa researcher. At least cited a nasa researcher who fled the doomsday scenario. Tell me about that right. The researcher is donald kessler in the work. He did start in the late seventies. It's called kessler syndrome named after him in the basic idea. Is that the more satellites or anything else who have floating around in space. The greater the chance of a collision more collisions. You have you're going to get debris more debris brief floating around the maurice floating around and we're chance collisions and you get into this cycle of more and more trash spinning around and just really out of control. So what's being done about this problem. A lot of worrying a lot of thinking about how to handle it but there aren't really a lot a good solution to right now. So some satellites and rockets sly back in earth's orbit they burn up and you know some that can be directed on purpose. Some satellite skid spun into a higher higher orbits andrew out of the way By the are no good systems for dragging satellites space. Picking can't send trash trucks since tweet street. Sweepers around growling. They've been some experiments With things like Basically a big fishing net to grab satellites And even space harpoon to grab him but again you have to be careful because you don't want to fragment you one nice big clean satellite and make it into a bunch of little tiny satellite pieces. That just adds to the problem.