Monday, 13 December 2010
There's no getting away from it
Of course everyone's known about Space Junk for ages. There's probably even a band named after it. But what I only learned today was that there's now so much of it that satellites can't be just left to their own devices up there with nothing but Kepler's Laws for guidance. Typically each of the hundreds of useful vehicles has to take avoidance action on average a dozen times a year, with its makers knowing that anything larger than a flake of paint can knock it out. It's getting a bit like a hairy dash round the M60 on the edge of rush-hour with the added excitement of knowing that every other vehicle on the road is being steered by a blind, trigger-happy robot.
And that is why there are now disposal plans, designated "graveyard orbits" and even talk of "Active Debris Removal", with the development of some out-of-this-world recycling technology. Houston, meet Mr Straight.
Meanwhile, the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence goes on. Which begs the question, is there anybody else out there looking, and if so might they find us? If they do, will their reaction be a bit like that of a twentysomething lass, who's met this really fun-to-be-with bloke, but is rather put off him when she first sees the state of his flat?