Space debris has touched the “tipping point,” as per a report released by the National Research Council, which appealed to NASA to find methods of monitoring in a better manner as well as cleaning up the orbiting junk which could be ominous for active satellites and manned spacecraft.
“Computer models show the amount of orbital debris has reached a tipping point, with enough currently in orbit to continually collide and create even more debris, raising the risk of spacecraft failures, the research council said in a statement released as part of its report.
“We’re going to have a lot more [debris] collisions, and at an increasingly frequent rate,” said Don Kessler, a former NASA scientist who chaired the committee that prepared the report.
NASA will be in need of a new strategic plan in order to mitigate the risks imposed by spent rocket bodies, discarded satellites and thousands of other pieces of junk flying around the planet at speeds of 17,500 miles per hour, the National Research Council has mentioned in the study.
The council is one of the private, nonprofit U.S. national academies that are providing expert advices on scientific problems.
In addition to more than 30 findings, the panel made two dozen recommendations for NASA to mitigate and improve the orbital debris environment, including collaborating with the State Department to develop the legal and regulatory framework for removing junk from space.
The problem of space debris is similar to a host of other environmental problems and public concerns characterized by possibly significant differences between the short- and long-run damage accruing to society, the report said.
Active satellites are at risk of damage and as the amount of debris increases, there will be an increase in the cost of operating. Manned spacecraft are also in danger. The international space station had a close call in late June, when an unidentified object came within 1,100 feet but caused no damage; astronauts were preemptively evacuated to emergency spacecraft.
The world's first space smashup occurred in 2009 when a working Iridium communications satellite and a non-operational Russian satellite collided 490 miles over Siberia, generating thousands of new pieces of orbital debris.
Manned spacecraft are also in danger. The International Space Station had a close call in late June, when an unidentified object came within 1,100 feet but caused no damage; astronauts were preemptively evacuated to emergency spacecraft.
The report provides no timeline for NASA to implement changes in its debris programs. At the same time considering that the tipping point is passed, Kessler said, “The earlier we deal with the problem, the cheaper it’s going to be in the long run.”