Monday, September 12, 2011

Cluttered Space: That's Outer Space

Sometimes we may feel overwhelmed by the amount of clutter we have in our homes, but it's always helpful to get perspective. At least most of us don't have to face anything comparable to NASA's mess:

"There are 22,000 objects in orbit that are big enough for officials on the ground to track and countless more smaller ones that could do damage to human-carrying spaceships and valuable satellites. The International Space Station has to move out of the way of debris from time to time.

'"We've lost control of the environment," retired NASA senior scientist Donald Kessler said in a recent report about space trash.' Kessler also suggested that it may become necessary to clean up some of our orbital junk."

The solutions to the clean up are still being debated:

"[I]deas range from a $1 billion U.S. Air Force 'Space Fence' radar tracking system, to a proposed European Space Agency probe that would spray loose rockets with protective foam, to an Italian spacecraft equipped with robot arms to help de-orbit the biggest pieces of debris."

More ideas:

Scientists at the University of Surrey in Britain have unveiled a 6.6-lb. miniature satellite fitted with a “solar sail” that can be deployed to de-orbit equipment left floating in space.

Russia is looking to build a $2 billion orbital “pod” that would sweep up satellite debris from space around the Earth.

The problem in space is the result of years of ignoring the situation. Now it's significant; it's hazardous and will be expensive to clean up. You've probably ignored your situation for a long time, too. But unless your clutter is so far out of control that it's jeopardizing your health and safety and will require hiring a professional crew to clear it out (see help for hoarders here), you'll be able to handle the job yourself with time and effort. Compared to NASA's mess, that's not so bad.