RE: What are we going to do about all the space junk?

Gina Miller (
Thu, 29 Apr 1999 13:08:53 PDT

"Billy Brown" WROTE:
>>I see two big issues that are being overlooked here:
>1) Space junk is only a medium-size problem. It certainly isn't
worthwhile to launch a major space program just to corral the stuff. Schemes like robotic junk-retrieval tugs will end up costing tens of millions of dollars per object retrieved, and there are tens of thousands of relatively significant objects up there. That adds up to an awful lot of zeros.

I agree and yet:

Space junk passes within 1 1/2 miles of ozone-mapping satellite ^By MARCIA
DUNN ^AP Aerospace Writer CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) - An ozone- measuring
satellite trailing space shuttle Discovery came frighteningly close to a
500-pound piece of space junk that could have smashed it to pieces.
discarded rocket motor passed within 1 1/2 miles of the German-built satellite, worth tens of millions of dollars. Discovery and its crew of six
were 51 miles ahead of the satellite at the time Monday night and were in
no danger, German mission manager Konrad Moritz said. If the rocket motor
and the 7,700-pound satellite had collided - both are hurtling around Earth
at 17,500 mph - it could have been disastrous. The U.S. Space Command, which tracks junk in orbit, knew the object was out there and kept NASA
informed. However, as the piece drew near, engineers variously predicted it
would pass as close as a half-mile or 3 1/2 miles. Because of that wide
margin of uncertainty, scientists nervously watched computer screens when
the moment of closest approach came. ``We saw that we are still transmitting, so our spacecraft is fine,'' Moritz said. ``This was a moment
of excitement.'' Ground controllers were prepared to fire tiny thrusters on
the satellite to slowly maneuver it out of harm's way. There is no danger
of the motor coming close to the 184-mile-high satellite again, said NASA
spokesman Kyle Herring. The astronauts plan to retrieve the satellite on
Saturday, two days before their mission ends. The spent rocket motor was
used in the unsuccessful launch of a communications satellite that was carried up on a space shuttle in 1984. Coincidentally, the platform on which the satellite's ozone-mapping telescopes are flying was on that mission, too. ``Now we are meeting this guy again,'' Moritz said. ``Isn't
that the story?'' The rocket motor is among more than 8,500 orbiting objects being tracked by the U.S. Space Command, most of them junk. Discovery's crew spent Tuesday taking more pictures of the Hale-Bopp comet
with an ultraviolet telescope mounted on a shuttle window, and conducted
more tests with a laboratory platform designed to withstand vibrations from
the spacecraft. ^AP-ES-08-12-97 1845EDT

Gina "Nanogirl" Miller
Nanotechnology Industries
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