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The Growing Concern of Space Debris: A Hazard to Future Space Missions

As technology advances and space exploration reaches new extremes, the issue of space debris has become a major concern for space industry titans like NASA and ISRO. With the speedy growth of the satellite industry and multiple nations innovating their own space missions, the volume of debris present in the Earth's orbit has become a frightening risk to future space missions.


Space debris, also known as space trash, comprises defunct satellites, rocket boosters, and other man-made objects that have reached the end of their functional lives and are left to float in space. Since the launch of Sputnik in 1957, there has been an exponential expansion in the amount of space debris circling around the Earth. The threat of collisions with space debris has increased so much that it has become a major concern for space institutes.


The issue of space debris not only poses a threat to future space missions but also affects current ones. The International Space Station( ISS), for instance, has to constantly adapt its course to avoid colliding with space debris; in 2019, the ISS had to conduct three fugitive manoeuvres to avoid a collision.


According to NASA, there are over 500,000 pieces of debris in orbit, ranging in size from tiny screws to abandoned satellites. The debris moves at an incredibly high velocity of up to 17,500 miles per hour, making it hard to track and predict its motions. The tiniest debris can damage satellites, and indeed, larger debris can beget catastrophic collisions that affect further debris.


The growing problem of space debris has prompted NASA to take action. In 2007, China tested an anti-satellite missile, which created more than 3,000 pieces of debris that are still in route. This incident prodded NASA to develop technologies that can help prevent, manage, and remit space debris.


There are several approaches to attacking space debris. One technique involves designing spacecraft and satellites with less damaging materials that break down snappily upon re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere. Another innovative solution is to use lasers to vaporise small debris.


NASA and other space industry titans are also working towards creating systems that can assiduously remove space debris. The most promising system is called the RemoveDEBRIS spacecraft, launched by the University of Surrey in 2018. The RemoveDEBRIS spacecraft utilises a net, dart, and drag sail to capture space debris and remove it from the route, making space safer for coming operations.


In conclusion, the issue of space debris is a growing hazard to future space missions. With the exponential growth of space missions and satellites, the amount of space debris is anticipated to increase significantly in the coming years. Still, as technology advances and innovative results come to light, space associations like NASA and ISRO are laboriously working towards finding answers to these problems. It's essential for space organisations to work together to establish an efficient solution to reduce the risk of collision and ensure the safety of future space missions.


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Tags: #nasa #isro #spacedebris


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