Typically when we think of the earth bobbing around the sun throughout space, we conjure up this image in our mind:
In reality, it looks more like this:
Our earth is surrounded by junk. Hundreds upon thousands of discarded spacecraft pollution litter the air, along with the hundreds of active satellites that orbit our planet. Modern technology depends on these active satellites for a variety of things–GPS systems, cell phones, cable TV. But my understanding is that as the amount of junk we dispense in earth increases, the higher the rate of collision–between a piece of trash and a valuable satellite–increases. Even though most of space junk is simply small pieces of debris- bolts, small chunks of old spacecraft- they are racing around the earth at an average of 22,000 miles per hour and can cause very real damage. If the clean up of our mess in space doesn’t start soon, future launches of probes and rockets from earth won’t be possible.
Every so often, space junk is sucked in by earth’s gravitational pull, and rains down on our planet. In the last half century, 12 million pounds of space junk has fallen to earth. About 2 tons of this junk falls to earth every month. Because 70% of the earth’s surface is water, we have been lucky so far that few people have been hurt. But things may change as the amount of debris continues to grow in size.
Reading up on this information, the thing that seems to halt the clean-up of all this galactic trash is:
1. the how. What machines/technology should be used to effectuate the clean-up?
2. funding. Who’s going to pay for this? Building and sending craft into space is expensive. Countries may bicker over who’s picking up who’s trash and taxpayers will argue about the expense of the project as well.
3. procrastination. Always put off until next century what you know you should do today. Global warming. Oceanic oil spills. The recycling conundrum. E coli outbreaks and the weakening health & safety standards of our food. All things to be blithely ignored while you shop away on your iPad and concern yourself with what sweatshop-produced designer bag to buy next. And wonder whether it is “un-American” for President Obama’s daughter to wear braids.
Okay, I realize that I am a little ranty right now, but it just annoys me that I did not know about serious issues such as this one until watching Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman (which most people probably have never heard of), yet trifling issues such as what kind of panties Sarah Palin buys are crammed down our throats. Sometimes I feel like society is simply sculpting a generation of androids. People who consume much and challenge little. But enough of society talk, we all already know it has problems.
To the problem at hand- I honestly don’t think space pollution’s being taken as seriously as it should be. Yet our highly-touted modern lifestyle depends upon it. Our gadgets and tools depend on a fixed number of satellites in the sky to work correctly. Something needs to be done to address how the impending increase in space junk is going to be handled; how collisions will be halted; the implications for us here on earth; and, whether satellite technology is even sustainable.