Scientists alarmed at increasing space debris

6,300 metric tonnes of waste accumulated in the orbit

At a time when billions of dollars is being spent worldwide on space missions, scientists are concerned that not much is being done to clear space debris, which is posing a threat to the planet and also future space missions. Scientists revealed that 6,300 metric tonnes of debris is in orbit between Lower Earth Orbit (LEO) and Geostationary Orbit (GEO). 

Scientists from various countries expressed their concern over the issue at a discussion during the ongoing Cospar (Committee for Space Research) Meet being organised at the Infosys campus here on Thursday. A statement by J C Liou of the NASA Orbital Debris Programme at Johnson Space Centre raised eyebrows on efforts being made by international space agencies to remove space debris. Asked how much was allocated in NASA’s budget to clear orbital debris, he replied, “Zero”. 

According to scientists, while 16,400 space objects including spacecrafts rocket bodies are floating in space as of now, only 1,000 are active. An example of threat from debris can be gauged from the one minute delay in launching PSLV C-18 carrying four satellites in October last year.

Expressing concern, Moriba Jah of Air Force Research Laboratory, USA, said, “We have little to no understanding of how the integrated effect of space environment drives the behaviour of inactive space objects.” Continuing he said, ”We need to do better job of how data needs to be collected.“

Another scientist, Carsten Wiedemann termed the trend as dangerous. While no information of failure is due to space mission is available, he said probability of collision between space objects is quite high.

Explaining methods to tackle the issue, Japanese scientist Yukihito Kitazawa said space based optical sensors or insitu micro debris sensors may be used for taking photos and tracking of orbital objects.

Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) has moved INSAT and GSAT satellites into graveyard orbits after their mission lives in compliance with UN recommendations.

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