Astronauts on a spacewalk during the STS-116 mission. Image Credit: NASA
The events of the hit movie could become a reality thanks to the large amounts of junk in Earth's orbit.
In the movie 'Gravity' Sandra Bullock ends up fighting for survival after debris from a satellite kick-starts a chain of devastation high up in orbit around the planet. While many of the sequences in the film are a little far-fetched, the scenario of a spacecraft being put in danger by pieces of space junk is actually very real.
Scientists at the University of Southampton have this week highlighted the risks posed by even the tiniest pieces of space debris which can prove just as destructive as the larger ones.
Some of this debris is thought to have come from satellites such as the US defence satellite DMSP F13 which exploded back in February producing more than 50,000 tiny fragments.
"Even though many of these objects will be no bigger than the ball in a ballpoint pen, they can disable a spacecraft in a collision because of their enormous speed," said Dr Hugh Lewis.
"In the case of the DMSP-F13 explosion, our work has shown that the introduction of a new cloud of small-sized debris into orbit will have increased the risks for other spacecraft in the vicinity, even if the risk from the larger fragments has been discounted."
Satellites currently thought to be most at risk include two Met Office weather satellites, two US military satellites, a US earthquake tracking satellite and a Canadian disaster management system.
The team's findings highlight the dangers posed by the ever-growing threat of space debris and the importance of coming up with effective new ways to remove existing pieces of space junk from orbit.
Source: Telegraph | Comments (7)
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