Posts Tagged ‘space trash’

A Matter of Image

February 19, 2012

What will aliens think during their first visit to our planet?

 When I go to someone’s home, my first impression of them is what I see when I get out of my car. If this is a person I don’t know, then a tidy yard, well maintained home and bright and inviting entryway gives me the impression that this person has it together, and is probably well organized, and successful. On the other hand, a cluttered yard, rundown house, and dark entryway gives the exact opposite impression. Worse yet, if you add in the risk that an occasional car might zip by and crash into your vehicle, you probably won’t even want to stop long enough to say hello.

 So what would aliens think about us when our front yard, the space around our planet, is cluttered with thousands of city-bus-size-or-larger derelicts zipping along at up to 17,000 miles-per-hour? Would they really want to park their interstellar spaceship near our planet when there’s a chance a wayward piece of junk the size of a satellite might plow into them at any moment?

 It’s not like people aren’t working on the problem.

 The Swiss Space Center at the Swiss Federal Institute for Technology in Lausanne has created a small $11 Million prototype satellite called CleanSpace One. In terms of space projects, $11 Mill is cheap. This mini-satellite basically gloms onto a large object and changes it trajectory until it burns up in our atmosphere.

 Even better, Star Technology and Research recently received $1.9 million from NASA to work on the ElectroDynamic Debris Eliminator. The contraption would reportedly “de-orbit” a piece of space junk by capturing it with a net. Unlike the CleanSpace One, which is destroyed along with its objective, the ElectroDynamic Debris Eliminator, would not reenter the atmosphere with its prey, but continue on to pursue the next piece of space junk.

 The term “prey” is key to a major problem with this technology because you have to consider the paranoia of most governments capable of launching such a device. After all, any satellite capable to de-orbiting space junk, can also do the same to an active satellite. Will we, or any Earthly government be comfortable with another country launching a handful of these predators and attacking their sovereign property, even if it is junk? Trust is needed here, and it will be hard to come by. After all, which of our planet’s countries have promised one thing, but done another? Maybe a third, neutral party needs to be assigned this task.

 If there is intelligent life out there, we have to assume they are also looking for us. If they manage interplanetary travel before we do and drop by for a visit, will they think we are a forward thinking people, capable of contributing to the galactic community, or see us as trailer trash?

 Take a look at our front yard.