It's high time to clean up the space otherwise the growing amount of space junk around Earth could prove dangerous for not only satellites, but also manned spacecrafts. This is the warning that the National Research Council has given to NASA in a report released on Thursday.
According to Donald Kessler, retired head of NASA's Orbital Debris Program Office, to clean up the space, international regulators must consider more research into the possible use of launching cosmic versions of nets, magnets and giant umbrellas.
Kessler further added that it's time that NASA should really put serious effort to determine the best path forward for tackling the multifaceted problems caused by meteoroids and orbital debris that put human and robotic space operations at risk.
The report says the current orbital debris has already reached a tipping point, where it will continually collide with itself, further increasing the population of orbital debris. It will lead to subsequent increases in spacecraft failures, which will only create more feedback into the system.
The orbit is now crowded with 22,000 big objects that ground officials can easily track. But there are other smaller ones that cause threat for active satellites and spacecrafts.
As per NASA's estimates, Earth's orbital debris cloud contains more than 20,000 pieces as big as a softball and more than 500,000, bigger than a marble. In 2009, a defunct Russian satellite and a U.S. Iridium communications satellite slammed into each other, adding at least another 2,000 pieces of space junk to the total.
In June, the International Space Station was almost hit by an unidentified object that came as close as 1,100 feet from the orbiting station. Astronauts were preemptively evacuated to emergency spacecraft.
Saying that the current space junk has touched a tipping point, the report highlighted the threat of increasing orbital debris population, resulted from possible collision among the wreckage
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 report stated.
Although the report doesn't offer strategy, it does emphasize the need for NASA to come up with a plan and better utilize its resources to tackle the problem.
The report recommended that NASA should initiate a new effort to record, analyze, report, and share data on spacecraft anomalies. It said that the space agency 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.
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.