SM Caption: Hug trash or Die Tryin'
In space, no one can hear you do your part to help the environment...
How much are you willing to sacrifice for the environment? A million dollars? Two? Would you die for it?
If you answered anything less than $102 million and "yes", you can't hold a candle to the ESA's experimental robot mission.
The mission - named Clearspace-1 after the space junk removal start-up partnering with the ESA - is designed to assassinate one problematic piece of space junk using a four-pronged robot in a calculated hug. Then our selfless hero will drag it into Earth's atmosphere, meaning certain death for both.
So what's the deal with this one piece of space junk? Why's it so bad?
In Earth's low orbit - the space up to 2,000km altitude - there are over 3,000 out of commission satellites and tens of millions of debris shards clattering around aimlessly. Although silent, they're orbiting Earth at shattering speeds upwards of 20,000km/h.
If two large pieces of debris collide, they create thousands more. And so on until there are enough satellite and spacecraft destroying debris in our atmosphere that space is off-limits.
The Vega Secondary Payload Adapter (VESPA) is just 112kg and waffles about Earth's low atmosphere, consorting with other no-hoper space chunks like a misdirected teen.
Originally launched to release a satellite in 2013, the VESPA is now a prime candidate for a worsening chain event known as the Kessler Syndrome.
The Kessler Syndrome is when the density of objects in low Earth orbit is high enough that collisions between could cause a cascade of debris building impacts. More debris creates more debris and so on until the immediate space above Earth is nothing but shrapnel.
So although VESPA seems small to us, it can create hundreds of thousands of slivers travelling in excess of 20,000km/h and a domino effect of shrapnel havoc.
And now the ESA has had enough.
Armed with a four-armed hug and a net, Clearspace-1 will, "... pave the way for a new regime of space-debris cleanup that our atmosphere desperately needs," said the ESA's official statement.
"The space debris issue is more pressing than ever before," said Luc Piguet, CEO of ClearSpace, the Swiss junk-removal startup partnering with ESA on the mission, said in the statement. "Today, we have nearly 2,000 live satellites in space and more than 3,000 failed ones. And in the coming years, the number of satellites will increase by an order of magnitude, with multiple mega-constellations made up of hundreds or even thousands of satellites planned for low Earth orbit."
Piguet stresses the need for a "tow truck" to manually drag pesky debris away is urgent.
After launching in 2025, Clearspace-1 will get its mitts on the cone-shaped VESPA about 800 km above Earth. After "hugging" the artificial nuisance, the robotic garbage person will transfer the debris into a large net and plummet towards Earth.
The question still remains whether $133 million is a cost-effective means of clearing space trash. But for the time being, it'll do.
Other agencies and nations have put their ideas forward including tiny nets to trawl space, even satellite lasers to blow debris further into deep space. A long term decision needs to be made in to compel those launching satellites to be responsible for their mess.
“Imagine how dangerous sailing the high seas would be if all the ships ever lost in history were still drifting on top of the water,” said Jan Wörner, ESA's director-general. “That is the current situation in orbit, and it cannot be allowed to continue.”
How would YOU deal with space junk if you had unlimited resources?
Nets? Magnets? Sharks with frickin laser beams attached to their frickin heads?
Let us know and share to a friend to spread ARSE.
Yo yo it's the Clintern! We just dropped a new suave hat for those that wanna go above and beyond this Chrissy. Presenting, the Gold Standard Houston.
It's easily the most prestigious hat we've made.
And only for stuffing the stocking of the very best in Aussie Space.
We've dropped them to our Space Society and email list so there's only what's left until all goners. So grab one if you're keen.
Clint the Intern