Space Junk, Defensive Laser Strikes and Conspiracy Theories

Picture: ESA (European Space Agency)

It’s been a bit of a space-fest at Douglas Towers recently.

Mostly because my daughter  is learning about planets and the solar system at school this term. Other parent will knows how such projects (Romans, Vikings etc) play a major role in family life.

So with my telescope firmly trained on the virtual heavens, a couple of stories have leapt out at me during my scan across the constellations of content out there.

These three I thought worth sharing:

ONE – Wired has reported  (http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2011-03/16/space-junk-lasers) how NASA is poised to become the garbage crew of low earth orbit – deploying suitably hi-tech methods to rid near space of manmade rubbish.

Not content with polluting the planet itself, we are now creating a hazardous ring of waste in the near space just beyond our atmosphere.

Bits of broken satellite, tools discarded or dropped by spacewalking astronauts and thebooster rockets and other stuff which is ejected while spacecraft are being propelled into orbit. The image you see here is from the European Space Agency which is working with NASA to map every piece of space debris.

All of this garbage is forming an increasingly dense and dangerous junk belt around the planet. It poses an ever growing risk to future space flight and a threat to the communications satellites we rely on for everything from mobile phones and TV shows to sat-nav and web access.

Now NASA is considering employing lasers. Not to blast the garbage out of existence, but to  gently nudge it farther away from our dear ‘Blue Marble’.

Once any piece of space junk is pushed out of the way, it is less likely to ever collide with other space junk – the main reason the amount of dangerous debris is multiplying at an alarming rate.

TWO – Talking of garbage, pollutants and unsavoury junk swilling about where it is unwanted but where nobody is really sure what to do with it – let’s move over to the reader comments section of The Scotsman.

Sadly what could and should be a forum for informed and reasoned debate has been turned into juvenile place for the exchange of playground insults. These mostly seem to be traded by Labour and SNP policy wonks.

However, alongside the cringeworthy peacocking of the politicos, you can occasionally find musings of the harmlessly obsessed or deluded. I reckon this next sites falls pretty much into that category.

I found this link (http://sites.google.com/site/raisdebris/) while following a reader comment thread on a Scotsman story about the escalating nuclear disaster in Japan.

What is clear is that commenter (and the man behind this website),  John Hall has spent an awful lot of time worrying about space debris. His comment on The Scotsman site suggested the Japanese quake may have been triggered by falling space debris. No. Really. I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt that he doesn’t really believe that and he was exaggerating for linkbaiting effect

He also seems to suggest a possible link between falling space junk and the Lockerbie disaster and, as he puts it, he is: “convinced that space debris has impacted our planet far more times than both the scientists and authorities care to disclose.”

Indeed, his site includes plentiful links to stories suggesting space junk is the cause of many worldy woes – from inexplicable fires to irradiated sheep. While Mr Hall may be a tad obsessive about the subject, he is fastidious in pointing out that his particular conspiracy theory has nothing to do with aliens or little green men.

THREE – He should try telling that to Radivoje Lajic who has his own X Files-style explanation for why  his home in Bosnia has been hit six times by falling meteors – all confirmed as space rock by Belgrade University.

This brilliant story (http://www.europics.at/gallery2/main.php?g2_view=core.ShowItem&g2_itemId=47880) is from my NAPA colleague Michael Leidig and his team at the Central European News agency.

Radivoje believes the hits on his home (which only happen when it is raining) are the work of aliens who have got it in for him.

Aw bless. With that kind of nutty thinking and outspoken attitude, he should get himself straight over to The Scotsman reader comments section. I’m sure he’ll be made very welcome.

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