Space Junk: Man did not even leave the moon, now space waste poses a big threat to the earth


Garbage In Space: All the space agencies of the world are creating new records everyday in the field of space. It is not known how much revolution will come from this, but together they have created a big problem for the space. There’s a lot of trash on the Moon right now – including about 100 bags of human waste. Also, with countries around the world traveling to the Moon, more debris is going to accumulate on both the Moon’s surface and Earth’s orbit. In August 2023, Russia’s Luna-25 spacecraft crash-landed on the Moon’s surface, while India’s Chandrayaan-3 mission successfully landed in the south polar region, making India the fourth country to land on the Moon.

With more countries landing on the Moon, people back on Earth have to wonder what will happen to all the landers, waste and other debris left on the Moon’s surface and in orbit? I am a professor of astronomy who has written articles on the future of space travel, our future beyond Earth, conflict in space, and the ethics of space exploration. Like many other space experts, I am concerned about the lack of governance regarding space debris.

space is getting denser

People think of space as vast and empty, but the atmosphere near the Earth is getting denser. Over the next decade, more than 100 lunar missions are planned by governments and private companies such as SpaceX and Blue Origin.

The orbit near the Earth is denser than the space between the Earth and the Moon. It ranges from 100 to 500 miles directly, compared to 240,000 miles to the Moon. Currently there are about 7,700 satellites within a few hundred miles of Earth.

This number may increase to several lakhs by 2027. Many of these satellites will be used to deliver internet to developing countries or to monitor agriculture and climate on Earth. Due to the significant reduction in the launch cost by companies like SpaceX, there is a possibility of an increase in the activity related to it.

It will be like an interstate highway, with everyone driving very fast during rush hour in a snowstorm, space launch specialist Jonathan McDowell told Space.com.

space debris problem

All this activity generates risk and waste. Humans have left a lot of trash on the Moon, including spacecraft parts like rocket boosters from over 50 ‘crash landings’, about 100 bags of human waste and other miscellaneous items. About 200 tonnes of our waste is included in this.

Since no one has the ownership right of the moon, it is also not the responsibility of anyone to keep it clean.

Clutter in Earth’s orbit includes defunct spacecraft, disused rocket boosters and objects discarded by astronauts such as gloves, wrenches and toothbrushes. This also includes small pieces of debris such as bits of paint.

In 1978, NASA scientist Donald Kessler described a scenario where collisions between pieces of orbiting debris create more debris, and the amount of debris grows exponentially, potentially creating a near-Earth orbit. renders it unusable. Experts call it ‘Kessler syndrome’.

there is no one in charge

The 1967 UN Outer Space Treaty states that no country can ‘own’ the Moon or any part of it and that celestial bodies must be used only for peaceful purposes. However, the treaty is silent about companies and individuals, and says nothing about how space resources can and cannot be used.

The United Nations Moon Treaty of 1979 recognized that the Moon and its natural resources are the common heritage of humanity. However, America, Russia and China never signed it.

Due to the lack of regulation, space waste is an example of a ‘common tragedy’, where many stakeholders have access to a common resource, and it can become unusable to all, as any stakeholder can prevent another from over-exploiting the resource. Can’t stop doing it.

Scientists argue that to avoid shared tragedy, the orbital space environment should be viewed by the United Nations as a global commons worthy of protection.

(This article published in ‘The Conversation’ is written by Chris Impey, University of Arizona and provided to us by PTI)

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