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...