Space Junk

Saturn has rings.  So does the Earth.

You may recall last month's test by China, in which the Chinese used an old weather satellite of theirs for target practice.  It's been suggested that, like the Russian and U.S. military twenty years ago, the Chinese want to be able to take out their adversaries' spy satellites in the event of some future war. 

They pulled it off, after years of trying.  They've tried to assure the U.S. that there's no threat.

But there's one nagging detail....

The Center for Space Standards & Innovation, a Colorado group that provides space-tracking information for aerospace firms, reports that the debris from the pulverized satellite is now spreading out in a ring around the Earth.  Our piece on the subject is HERE

The ring is not dense -- there are some 500 pieces large enough to be tracked on radar -- but it's vast, and the path is an orbit that goes over the north and south poles. 

Through their parent company, Analytical Graphics, Inc., they've put together some COMPUTER ANIMATION, which will give you a good idea of what's happening. (Note: it's a large file, which will open Windows Media Player if your computer is configured as mine is.)  The image on this page, also theirs, gives you an idea of what's going on up there.  The International Space Station, though its orbit is in a different plane, will pass through that red zone twice every orbit.  NASA says there's no risk; CSSI says that can't be said.

To people in the space business, this is part of a growing problem.  Even a fleck of paint can be fatal at 17,200 miles an hour. 

Space shuttles have had to evade known pieces of space junk on several flights in the past, and at least three satellites have been disabled by orbiting debris since the early 1990s. 

Three?  That's it?  Just remember that each represents millions--or hundreds of millions--of dollars, much of which came from us taxpayers.

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