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233- Space Trash, Space Treasure

2016-10-25 | 🔗

In the summer of 1961 the upper stage of the rocket carrying the Transit 4A satellite blew up about two hours after launch. It was the first known human-made object to unintentionally explode in space, and it created hundreds of … Continue reading →

This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
This is ninety nine percent, invisible, I'm roman noise. A moment as I am the count damages in nineteen. Fifty seven, a few months after the Soviet Satellite Sputnik became the first human object in space, the United States its launched explore. One yeah I, like re intently media impact solar radiation, neither dry back that will help carry a man ever bother and with that space race was under way in the two world powers began laundering more and more satellites every year, a lot of, is early missions failed before you ever made it into orbit that's producer. Fitzgerald, but there its successes and little by little space started to fill up with human rights it objects by this. More of nineteen sixty one. There were a hundred and fifty
satellites circling the earth and it was doing that summer that the? U S launched an unmanned rocket carrying the transit for a satellite and two hours after launch the rocket blew up. It was the first known object to unintentionally explode in space and created about three hundred fragments of totally useless space chuck. Some of these pieces got pulled into the atmosphere and burned up, but around two hundred are still up there today at the time Most people were all that concerned about a few bits of metal floating around in the vastness of space. I think the general feeling was Space was big and that we could put the object. Satellites up into space without really having any consequences too, that this is Hugh Louis space junk exe. At the University of Southampton In the early days of the space age, it was seen as a problem, while the
universe may be infinite orbital space. The region where objects revolve around the earth is finite and the amount that we use regularly is even more limited. Those satellites end up in a few particular orbits, almost like freeways amateur I think on those freeways is actually quite a lot and that's where the problems are to emerge as the traffic increases so does chance of collision. One of the region of space that got busy pretty quickly is the air they are called low earth orbit better regional face. It extends to an attitude of about two thousand. Barometers that very heavily congested, and when a satellite stops working in lower earth orbit, it can stay in that region for hundreds of years. By the mid nineties sixties. There were all ready lots of old and defunct satellites floating around there and NASA began to look into this. They started to really think about the potential issue:
space debris orbital debris, my toes in the future That was an austerity that was really led by don't Kastler master at the time when he was dead Kessler. I started the orbital debris program. Kessler is retired now, but when he got started at NASA he was studying media rights and specifically, what happens when two meteoroids collide and break apart into smaller pieces, Eventually, Doncaster started doing similar research on space junk Org as NASA calls it orbital debris as there was studying what happens when one piece collides with another, and this is what he found the returning a break up, you increase, the probable we have another collision and that are actually just causes the whole population taken.
Can you to increase exponentially with time this idea that space junk multiplies as more and more objects collide and break? Apart came to be known as the Kessler Syndrome and Kessler predicted that the growth in space junk would eventually snow and that cascading phenomena after over a hundred years gets to be well out of control. There's not much you can do about it and you ve, created environment that becomes very hazardous to spacecraft. If the growth in space junk went totally unchecked castle predicted that space become so filled with debris that it would be difficult to fly. The spacecraft without getting hit Kessler Fight, things, were discuss throughout the space community and and ninety seven nine NASA started its orbital debris programme to study and monitor space junk and they appointed him too beat it. Around the same time, people began to use space more and more countries all around the world. Where launching whether satellites military satellites, communication
satellites and amateur radio satellites, and because space is owned by any one government. In particular. Low earth orbit began to experience a tragedy of the comments. Lots of different countries were leaving trash everywhere, but no one was tidy the amount of junk in space continued to grow throughout the twentieth century, but it wasn't until two thousand nine long, after DAWN Kessler had retired that people really started to take the issue seriously. To communication satellites have collided in space around eight hundred kilometers above to it's the first on February, Cavs two thousand and nine, the iridium thirty three and active Us Communication Satellite struck a defunct russian satellite called the cosmos two thousand two hundred and fifty one. It was the first collision between two fully intact satellites and it created thousands of pieces of debris.
Kessler wasn't surprised. Forty years prior, he had predicted that the first major collision between whole satellites of this size would happen around the new millennium formost B. Will the collision made the problem of space junk feel much more urgent going back? There Medium Cosmos collision. When he was a wake up call, and certainly it a new wave of research and funding even for space. Every that's Hugh Louis again Louis says that it's hard to estimate the total amount of space debris out there, but scientists control back anything larger than ten centimeters in diameter. You're talking Maybe a population of objects, but are soft boss. He's a big about is about thirty thousand objects in orbit. At the moment. Everything from small fragments to old rocket bodies to satellites the size of a bus, and that's just the stuff that law
enough to track. There are potentially millions of millimeter size, bits of debris, shards of glass, screws, flex of paint, and even that tiny stuff can cause real. The problems when its whipping around the earth at up to seventeen thousand miles per hour. Yet Subject does not need to be big in order to carry a lot of energy and to cause a substantial amount of damage. If, if it were If anything, the most vulnerable thing in orbital space is the International space station which routinely to make maneuvers to avoid collisions with larger pieces of space debris the inner national space station is also equip with expensive heavy duty shielding to protect it from smaller bits of space, junk astronaut, TIM Peak reasoning. To a picture of a sizeable did it in one of the space station windows were a piece of debris. Penetrated several centimetres into the glass with a constant reminder for the astronauts on the space station every time I look at that window,
recognition of the best websites out there, but has not yet the threat to actions, so much of our technology here on earth is dependent on vulnerable satellites are pretty much at one and the UK me are you in the? U S, programmes phone with cheap gps capability on it. Better services provided by spaceport and when you think about navigation signals that are used for aircraft, the flying in the sky, everywhere in our daily lives and not just tuna for convenience, express safety, international telephone communication, whether forecasting keeping track of time in different parts of the world. All of them is dependent on satellites, global banking sector pull down. If we lost the signals we get from space, these risks
are causing scientists around the world to look into how they can clean up this pace environment. Now, when someone wants to put a new satellite into space, there are view and guidelines that say you have to come up with a plan to dispose of that satellite within twenty five years. There are a couple issues with these guidelines, though one being followed by everyone and to even if they were more closely adhered to. It might not be enough. Make space safe because there's already so much stuff up there in his Donald Kessler, discovered space junk, multiplies universe putting any more stuff up there. The number of pieces of John will continue to grow, and then we start to think about. Ok, how do we addressed the problem? Perhaps a bit more to be? How do we deal with the stuff? It's up there, All around the world. Engineers are dreaming up ways to remove debris from space. In many
This is by sending it down into earth's atmosphere to burn up you throw a net over the objects harpoons they ve been talked about. There Our proposals for a space, junk slingshot and solar sales that could carry a piece of junk and of a dangerous Orban, robotic arm, attaching a really long Heather to the object to try and bring it down a catching sullied rocket motor, no matter how you do it, removing an object from space will be expensive and politically complicated, but right now The European Space Agency is planning a mission to remove one of its derelict satellites. Are considering these kinds of ideas. That mission is scheduled to take place in twenty twenty three. So we are on the cusp of this type of activity but even if we found the perfect technology to safely destroy all of the space junk in earth orbit, not every is on board. I completely agree that this is a problem. We need to do something about but I think the way that its framed leaves
a really vital factor, and that factor is human cultural heritage. That's Alice, Gorman, also known as doctors, space junk a senior lecture in the Department of Archaeology, Linda's university, and I do research on space archaeology, particularly looking at space junk in lower earth orbit for much of her career, Alice, Gorman or Doktor space junk researched, aberration our culture in Australia, I've been professional archaeologist for many years, and I was working on a consulting job in Queensland and looked up at the sky and realised that some of those points of view Eyes were not stars or planets. They were actually human manufactured spacecraft and some of those bits of staff were space junk and that's kind of but archaeologists do we. We focused on the stuff that people discard the stuff they throw away, that the garbage of humanity so
while the rest of her colleagues continued digging in the dirt Gorman turned, attention skyward and began to study the archaeology of space because, amidst the scraps of floating debris are some really remarkable. Artifacts. A lot of as things become Nicole space Junker actually caught extraordinary objects that have so much to tell us about the early history of the space age. I've got a lot of favorites in lower Thorburn Vanguard. One is definitely one of them launched by the United States in nineteen. Fifty eight Van one is currently the oldest intact object in space, little great great size aluminium sphere with four and ten is to hear on the side, its floating around up there, along with the most recent lights along with you, no technology that sir head of very different and there are objects in orbit that looking
a thing like a traditional satellite like the West Ford Needles, which were these small copper antennas that were sent in the space in the nineteen sixties ever really tawny. So they were. I lay like a centimeter beak and the idea was day would form a reflective halo around the earth that radio signals could be bounced from using radio waves. Fur global communication never really took off, but some of the needles are still up there, but together in little clumps of copper, sir. I find them really fascinating and is probably a lot more of those kinds of stories and objects at their that that tell a story of technology that could have gone in one direction, but very often another one. Instead, but gormans all time. Favorite piece of space, junk might be the track satellite which the? U S Navy launched from Cape Canaveral in nineteen sixty one, and it was the first satellite to have a poem in
written by professor of italian literature at Yale named Thomas Bergen and one and of the of is inscribed on inscribed on monetary instrument. Panels inside the satellite was kind of already conceived as a cultural objects, and that cultural object is still up their orbiting the earth about a thousand kilometers up. The poem reads we forgive your fault as we come to claim our promise place only to good you gave in when human nature of space. All of these objects might seem far away and inaccessible, but the day will likely com when we can go and visit them. You can already get to the international space station for a cool twenty million dollars and Gorman says that one day we will be able to fly coach into space is quite likely that you know when it's accessible and affordable thing. Today, people all go into space and maybe stat some fancy orbital huh
hell and the two things we know from what's happening, ready that they will want to do, is take a lot of photographs and have sex but of well, that's just gonna become old had to and what Ben's, when zero g sex gets boring historical space tours. That's what you might have different kinds of tools: you might say: let's do the amateur satellite to, or you might say, let's do, the cold war satellites or might say: let's go see, all of the satellites come from. You know my nation space agent so yeah totally think this stuff is going to happen. Is it's gonna be one of the things people too, once we actually have a space tourism industry people can afford, but the irony is in order to have viable space tourism. We a safe orbital environment. And so, if we don't find an effective way to clean up some of the junk in space, we might
never be able to go and see the good stuff and it's kind of frightening it it's in the most extreme version of this having in a venture out to the moon and with spacecraft. You know the voyages beyond the solar system. We that's really be shot back on earth, so Gorman is all for cleaning up space. She just wants us to think carefully before, we destroy something that we might want back, because You can imagine the archaeologists and historians of the future trying to about their heads around humanity's first trips into space, they'll be so many mistakes. Seventy things that don't make sense, so many stories that you have a little bit here in a little bit there and you trying to fill in gaps and those future archaeologists will thank us for leaving some space junk right, where it is
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Transcript generated on 2020-02-14.