“Space junk at ‘tipping point’, now getting worse on its own”

I’ve mentioned before the problem of man-made junk in low-earth orbit, and the three plans (American laser, Japanese fishing-net, and Italian robo-satellite) so far suggested to combat it.

Apparently the problem is even worse than I’d realized, and has reached a critical stage. If I read the American laser proposal correctly (which isn’t guaranteed), it would work best on larger pieces of debris. The Italian version will only work on large pieces. If either one is going to be used, it needs to be done now, before the stuff starts colliding and getting ever-smaller. The Japanese proposal is the only one that looks like it might work on smaller pieces, and large groups of them; it also appears to be the most viable technologically, as it doesn’t require problematic high-powered lasers or poorly-tested AI and robotics.

In any case, I doubt this will be a problem in the long term. Someone is going to find a viable solution, and there’s enough money sunk into satellites that it’ll get funded. It’s just a question of how soon — and what the cost will be, as the longer it’s delayed, the more and smaller pieces of junk there will be.

(I just re-read Battlefield Earth, which includes a minor bit where a spacecraft goes into orbit to snatch pieces of debris floating there. Unfortunately the type of motor the craft uses is entirely fictional at this point, so it doesn’t offer any viable ideas for a solution.)


  1. Just don’t tip it then! I don’t care if it’s customary to give it 15% of your bill, don’t tip the space junk!!!

    Oh, BTW, Battlefield Earth. Ewwww, L. Ron Hubbard cult fiction. 😉 Though I admit some of the stuff was OK because he got another SF writer who was a devotee (name escapes me) to write some of it who was actually a talented writer.

  2. Dangerous. If you never tip, it’ll remember you and the next time you go into orbit it’ll do something nasty to your food. 😉

    Have you ever actually read Battlefield Earth? It’s pretty good science fiction. Many of the characters are pretty two-dimensional, that’s definitely one of his weak points (and a pretty common one in SF from the era when he wrote most of his stuff), but that doesn’t necessarily detract from the story. And there’s no sex in it at all, so even you could read it. 😉 Whatever LRH’s other faults, he was considered a master of the Golden Age of Science Fiction for a good reason.

    (Watching the movie doesn’t count, the movie was a bad adaptation of only the first part of the book.)

    You can see strong hints of his opinion of psychology, but that’s as close as it gets to Scientology.

    • I like A.E. Van Vogt’s (according to the rumors, the real Battlefield Earth author, and he was definitely an early leader of Dianetics) other stuff better, which was really top-flight golden age SF stuff.

      Some critics apparently, according to the Wiki, don’t like his work though – but Philip K. Dick appreciates him and I love PKD, so I’m glad I have company there even though some consider him to be bad space-opera.

    • I’ve come to the conclusion that some people are going to like what a person does and some people aren’t, no matter how good the work actually is. You’ve got to make up your own mind based on the evidence.

      (And if you’re the person who did the work being examined, listen to the critics with a healthy dose of skepticism. What they’re complaining about may well be irrelevant to you.)

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