Friday, September 2, 2011

Space Junk

There's been a bit of talk about too much space junk and that we need to create a "giant net" to catch it all.  This hurts my brain that folks are considering this.  Firstly, to create it, the mass of the earth would decrease about 2% just to create a mono-filament "net" to catch it all and then what?  Bring it back down with a giant spool like a fishing pole?  How does one "reel-in" the net?  Aside from magic and sorcery, this is physically impossible on every tangible level.  Space objects are travelling at wildly different speeds and directions.  How would you space-out the gaps in the net?

All this is the stuff of uneducated writers with liberal-arts degrees (such as JJ Abrhams with his black-hole time-warp sometimes theory.. ie. did baddy Romulan get destroyed at the end from the "red matter"?)  Black holes are much likely not magical space/time worm-holes in the same way a chocolate bar isn't (well.. rarely).  A neutron star (aka a collapsed star) is a very dense, medium-small (aka 5000 miles across) star with a very high gravity.  You go into that and you get smoosh-smoosh.  The end.

Anyway, most of the space "junk" debris (rocket-bodies, extra-dead satellites, etc.) are in a low-earth or highly-eccentric orbit.  During solar cycles (every 7 years or so) the sun swells causing a slight warming of the Earth, expanding its atmosphere a good amount.  This creates more drag on the orbiting junk causing it to burn-into the atmosphere and crash-land (99% just burns up in re-entry, depending on what it's made of).  Sometimes a small piece might make it back that didn't burn-in but it's hyper-rare and usually gets burned down to about an inch or two. 

We should be much more worried about more pressing matters, like the jobless rate, Cthulu, Star Wars being more ruined on Bluray, Burger King awesomeness, and the band Rush.  So, there's no fears about space junk.  We got a lot of folks work on collision avoidance every day.  I did.  I did a good job at it, too.  Others work on it and they too do a good job.  There's a finite number of objects and the US tracks them all, every day and night, 24x7.  I worked 8 of those hours (give or take) back in 2000-2002.  Don't worry.  We're safe.  Now get thee a Whopper!  You can get one with A1 Steak Sauce, you know.  They have that.  Get it.  NOW.  (1997).

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