Space junk is on the rise, and no one is responsible for cleaning it up – Ars Technica

Artist's impression of space debris orbiting the Earth.
Zoom in / Artist’s impression of space debris orbiting the Earth.

There is a lot of waste on the moon at the moment, including approx 100 bags of human waste– And with countries traveling around the world to the moonThere will be many, both on the Moon and in Earth’s orbit.

In August 2023, Russia Luna -25 The Indian probe crashed into the surface of the moon Chandrayaan-3 The mission successfully landed in the Antarctic region, making India the fourth country to land on the moon.

Students celebrate and dance after the Chandrayaan3 Vikram lander successfully landed on the lunar surface at Kartvayapath on August 23, 2023, in New Delhi, India.
Zoom in / Students celebrate and dance after the Chandrayaan3 Vikram lander successfully landed on the lunar surface at Kartvayapath on August 23, 2023, in New Delhi, India.

As more countries land on the Moon, the people back on Earth will have to consider what happens to all the landers, junk, and miscellaneous debris left on the Moon’s surface and in orbit.

I’m a professor of astronomy and he wrote a book on The future of space travelArticles about Our future is beyond Earth, Conflict in space, space congestionand the Space exploration ethics. Like many other space experts, I am concerned about the lack of control over space debris.

Space is getting crowded

People think space is vast and empty, but the near-Earth environment is starting to get crowded. as many as possible 100 lunar missions They will be planned over the next decade by governments and private companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin.

The near-Earth orbit is more crowded than the space between the Earth and the Moon. It’s 100 to 500 miles straight, compared to 240,000 miles to the moon. Currently there are approx 7,700 satellites A few hundred miles from Earth. this number can grow to several hundred thousand By 2027. Many of these satellites will be used to bring the Internet to developing countries or to developing countries Agriculture control And climate On the ground. Companies like SpaceX have made great progress Lower launch costsdriving this wave of activity.

“It would be like the interstate highway, rush hour in a blizzard, everyone is driving too fast,” the space launch expert said. Jonathan McDowell said.

Space junk problem

All this activity creates hazards and debris. Humans have left a lot of trash on the Moon, including leftover spacecraft like rocket boosters from above 50 crash landingsalmost 100 bags of human wasteand miscellaneous items such as badminton, golf balls, and shoes. It adds up to around 200 tons of our garbage.

since Nobody owns the moonNo one is responsible for it Keep it clean and tidy.

the Chaos in Earth’s orbit They include defunct spacecraft, spent rocket boosters, and items discarded by astronauts, such as mittens, wrenches, and toothbrushes. It also includes Small pieces of debris like paint spots.

There are about 23,000 Things larger than 10 cm (4 in) and about 100 million pieces of debris larger than 1 mm (0.04 in). Small bits of scrap may not seem like a big deal, but this debris is moving at 15,000 miles per hour (24,140 kilometers per hour), ten times faster than a bullet. this fastEven a splash of paint could puncture a spacesuit or destroy a sensitive piece of electronics.

The amount of debris in orbit has increased dramatically since the 1960s.

In 1978, NASA scientist Donald Kessler Describe a scenario where collisions between orbital pieces of debris create more debris, and the amount of debris grows exponentially, which may render near-Earth orbit unusable. Experts call thisKessler syndrome“.

Nobody is in charge there

United nations Outer Space Treaty of 1967 He says that no country can “own” the moon or any part of it, and that celestial bodies should only be used for peaceful purposes. But the treaty is silent on companies and individuals, and says nothing about how space resources may or may not be used.

United nations The Moon Convention of 1979 He considered the moon and its natural resources to be the common heritage of humanity. However, the United States, Russia and China never signed it, and in 2016 The US Congress created a law Which unleashed the American commercial space industry with very few restrictions.

Due to its lack of regulation, space waste is an example of “The tragedy of the commonsWhere many interests have access to a common resource, it may become depleted and unusable by all, because no interest can prevent another from overexploiting the resource.

Scientists believe that to avoid the tragedy of the commons, the orbital space environment should be viewed as an orbital space environment global commons deserve protection before United nations. The main author of a Essay on nature A defense of the global commons is presented Friend Brief– a type of external commentary offering support or expertise – in a case brought to United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in late 2021.

The author and his research collaborators have argued that US environmental regulations should apply to the licensing of space launches. However, the court refused to rule on the environmental issue because it said the group lacked prestige.

National geopolitical and commercial interests are likely to take precedence over planetary conservation efforts unless the United Nations acts. A new treaty may emerge from the work of the United Nations Office of Outer Space Affairswhich was born in May 2023 a policy document To address the sustainable development of activities in space.

The United Nations can only regulate the activities of its member states, but it has project To assist Member States in formulating policies at the national level that promote the Sustainable Development Goals.

Created and signed by NASA Artemis Accordsand broad but non-binding principles for peaceful cooperation in space. It has been signed by 28 countries, but the list does not include China or Russia. private companies They are not party to the agreements either, some of them Astronauts They have deep pockets and big ambitions.

The lack of regulation and the current gold rush approach to space exploration means that space junk and waste will continue to accumulate, as will related problems and risks.

Chris Impey He is a Distinguished University Professor of Astronomy University of Arizona.

This article was republished from Conversation Under Creative Commons Licence. Read the The original article.

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