Chicken Little – A Modern Day Story
“The sky is falling! The sky is falling!”
These are the words of Chicken Little, a character in a well-known children’s book who thinks the sky is falling after an acorn falls from a tree and hits Chicken Little on the head. In some versions of the story, Chicken Little convinces her animal friends to go with her to tell the king that the sky is falling only to be sent back home with assurances the sky wasn’t going to fall.
Yet if the story of Chicken Little were set in today’s times, it would be a different story altogether. Just substitute scientists for Chicken Little, a satellite for the acorn, and voila! You get this article in the New York Times.
Scientists and NASA experts are growing increasingly concerned over the amount of space junk in Earth’s lower atmosphere. This comes as no surprise, as within the past two years alone two satellites have crashed into Earth. However, scientists agree that although the likelihood of collisions of Earth are small, the likelihood of collisions with other space technology such as the International Space Station and important satellites is increasing.
Researchers are working on creating technology that would clear up orbital space around Earth. Technology in developmental stages range from balloons and lasers that would push space junk out of orbit (to then burn up harmlessly in Earth’s lower atmosphere) to an $11 million dollar claw that would grab onto space junk before dragging both itself and the junk to burn in lower orbits.
Yet the question is, just how complicated is it to solve the space-junk issue?
Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as writing THE END. There are many debates as to which method is the most effective at removing space junk, as well as extensive international politics. Space objects are owned by the nations that put them into orbit, and only those nations can bring them down. International agreements and policies are currently developing very slow as countries debate and often get distracted by other pressing international issues.
Do you think that space pollution and the removal of space junk is an issue that the international community should be focusing on more? Who should be responsible for its removal? What’s your favorite new technology to deal with space cleanup?