Private Space Pollution

Here's a remarkable fact: even though the first satellite, the Russian Sputnik 1, was launched on 4 October, 1957, there are already more than 129 million objects in orbit around our insignificant little planet...


Space_Pollution_small.jpg
source: European Space Agency

The more than 129 million objects mentioned above count all known objects larger than 1 millimetre, and all of them travel with speeds up to 56,000 kilometres per hour. This is more than fast enough for even a coin-sized object to rip through a satellite. Many of these Earth-orbiting fragments result from collisions between active and inactive satellites; one such collision happened in 2009, adding thousands of new pieces of space debris. This growing field of space pollution makes it ever more difficult to safely launch new satellites or other spacecraft, and endangers our existing active satellites; we can track a lot of the debris, but not all of it, as recently the Canadarm, a series of robotic arms attached to the ISS, was hit by such a small piece of space-junk. This is shown and discussed in the below linked video...

However, this is not what struck me most about this news. What grabbed my attention can be seen in the graph displayed above this post: almost all of the launches responsible for the exponential growth of objects in low Earth orbit are of the commercial kind, paid for with private money and owned by private companies. The number of military or government funded launches is almost negligible. Isn't capitalism wonderful...? The private corporations are already the largest polluters on the planet, and are well on their way to becoming the largest polluters in space; just another externality for them to not worry or care about I guess. With Elon Musk's intent to colonize Mars, and Jeff Bezos' plans for the Moon, we can safely assume that the privatization of space is just the next phase in capitalism's eternal growth model.

Let's get this straight: research, any research, should be put to the benefit of mankind. Period. Research and exploration should definitely NOT be the plaything of wealthy individuals, not even if we think they're our own Tony Stark. The way things are going now, we're well on our way to creating our own Elysium, a future in which the very wealthy live on a man-made space station while the rest of the population resides on a ruined Earth. And this goes for all technological advances. Brain-enhancing implants, bionic eyes, life-prolonging medicines or eugenics, you name it; if they become available for the rich alone, we'll be witnessing a gap between the rich and the poor that'll make the current one pale in comparison. So, watch the video as this news and the Kessler Syndrome are interesting all on their own, but I just couldn't let my additional thoughts go unmentioned; I hope they provide some food for thought...


ISS Canadarm Hit by Space Debris - Are We Close to Kessler Syndrome?


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