NASA to Use Lasers To Shoot Away Space Junk

Space.com is reporting that one idea recently floated by the boffins at NASA is to use lasers to shoot space junk out of orbit. Awesome! But it won't be the pew-pew like laser explosion from Star Wars...

Image: Star Wars Wiki

You know that scene in Wall-E where the rocket ship blasts through an endless collection of space trash orbiting the earth in order to return to the mothership? In real life, that space junk would probably destroy the rocket. Anyway, that's why NASA is thinking up ways to clear away the junk that's already up there before it gets out of control.

Space debris travels at about 7.5 kilometres per second - or as we like to call it, fast. And while it's a problem in itself, the bigger problem is when this debris collides with other debris smashing them to bits and creating even more, smaller bits of debris. Given that the Earth's lower orbit is already filled with defunct satellites, finding away to clear away unnecessary junk is becoming a high priority for scientists.

The latest idea from NASA is using lasers based in Antarctica to clear away the debris. But rather than making the old satellites explode into a million fragments like a Death Star that's just been photon torpedoed, these lasers would gently push the satellites out of orbit until they gently floated off into the infinite abyss of space.

The plan would be to use a 5-to-10-kilowatt beam focussed on an object for about two hours to push the device out of orbit. The same technology could also be used to help push specially designed satellites into orbit as well.

There's still a lot of work to be done before this becomes a valid plan, but anything plan that combines lasers and space is a plan worth pursuing...

[Space.com]


Comments

    I don't ever remember seeing that shot in ESB...

      The laser cannon Luke made in Metalwork class finally comes in handy.

      That's because it was in a cut scene: http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Laser_ice-cutter

      It was eventually cut from the theatrical release. It was a scene where Luke uses a rebel 'mining vehicle's laser cutter to escape Echo Base.

      The (unseen) vehicle managed to find its way into Lego sets and the like, despite the cut.

    How do you focus on something that's travelled 54000 km's? won't the other 12999 satellites get in the way?

      Sure...at first.

    Same here, it does seem familiar though.

    Why don't they use the lasers to push the space junk into a collision course with Earth's atmosphere so it can burn up on re-entry instead of polluting the entire Solar System?

    Frak I'm good! I should work for NASA.

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