Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Ack! Space Disaster! The Sky Is Falling!

No, really. I don't mean to be alarmist or anything, but this has the potential to be really bad. Check it out:

U.S., Russian satellites collide in space

The news is noting this as something of interest because it happens so rarely. There's a reason this happens so rarely, people!! We avoid it on purpose! Seriously, space debris is very bad news. Imagine taking two things that are flying hundreds of miles per hour, smacking them together from different directions so that they fall apart into little itty bitty pieces, then having these pieces spread out in separate orbits like so many rifle bullets -- all going hundreds of miles an hour.

What was one incident could turn into thousands (something called an ablation cascade that could ultimately result in the Kessler Syndrome). At the altitude these two spacecraft were flying at, the debris will be in orbit for decades, if not hundreds of years! This is an astrodynamicists worst nightmare ...

Can't people just clean up after themselves?!

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