Re: Guest Post - On the Way to Setting Jupiter on Fire

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How dense does the debris field have to get before it blocks enough sunlight to counteract global warming? Everything could just work itself out!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06- 3-14 10:20 AM
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How far away is the closest Lagrange point from satellite orbit?


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 06- 3-14 10:21 AM
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which is worse, the inner-outer space trash or the island of trash in the Pacific Ocean?

There's also trash in the arctic.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 06- 3-14 10:22 AM
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Not quite this bad yet, but almost.


Posted by: MAE | Link to this comment | 06- 3-14 10:28 AM
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God damn long articles. 1500 words on the first page! Nap time doesn't last forever, journalists!


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 06- 3-14 10:30 AM
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While there are lot of bits of debris in near-Earth orbit, most of them are pretty small, and space is pretty big, if you believe Douglas Adams.

I was told that over half of the tracked debris (8,000 pieces?) is the leftovers of a single test of an anti-satellite weapon by China some years ago.


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 06- 3-14 10:57 AM
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Note to self. RTFA first.


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 06- 3-14 10:59 AM
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I've got to think that if there is ever a war that involves significant use of anti-satellite weapons, we can forget about low-earth orbiting satellites for the duration. Those that don't get shot down will be destroyed by debris from the ones that do.

Hell, I saw Gravity, I know what happens.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 06- 3-14 11:01 AM
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7 to 8


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 06- 3-14 11:02 AM
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The ocean trash island is not something I can stand to think about much. My brain turns into a less cute version of the first scene of Sex, Lies, & Videotape.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 06- 3-14 11:15 AM
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HG:which is worse, the inner-outer space trash or the island of trash in the Pacific Ocean?

The last figure I heard was around 8000 objects being tracked in orbit (most of them in low earth orbit between say 150 miles & 250 miles out). Figure a metric ton per object (on the larger side of a typical satellite final payload mass), and we're talking about 10k metric tons total. The problem is that most of that trash is either in the easy to get to low earth orbit space, or in geosynchronous orbit. Much of the intervening volume is going to be basically empty, but of course, those orbits aren't 'neat'.

Meanwhile, the Port of Los Angeles (firefox spellcheck says Los Angeles is misspelled) is moving 165 million metric tons in/out per year. Making for ~450k metric tons per day. If 1% of that eventually winds up as some form of non-biodegradable trash (lowball estimate), that's ~4500 metric tons of trash per day. If 1% of that winds up as non-biodegradable trash floating in the Pacific (maybe lowball), that's an additional ~45 metric tons of trash added to a trash island every day. From the Port of Los Angeles alone. Three years (a thousand days) of that will give you ~45,000 metric tons of trash added to the Pacific. From the Port of Los Angeles alone.

Human-made space junk is not even close to being an equivalent problem, even without taking into consideration that the universe is full of lifeless rocks which have been bouncing off each other since ever and will continue to do so until the last exotic particle gives it up. Natural space junk that orbits the Sun, on the other hand, is something of a problem because BOOM.

(And then the people from PETER (People for the Ethical Treatment of Extraterrestrial Rocks) will show up to explain that we might hurt the moon* or space or something and how important this issue is. And then I will have a beer and ignore it.)

max
['So. No biggie.']

* There was a meme going around about NASA hurting the moon by piling a probe into it. RLY! People were VERY upset.


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 06- 3-14 11:21 AM
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I 100% agree with the conclusion that the pacific gyre of trash is way worse than space junk, but I believe most of that trash comes from dumping from land, not from goods shipped at sea or ports. Also, hi Max.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06- 3-14 11:30 AM
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Hey Max.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06- 3-14 11:32 AM
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How realistic would it be to just put missiles on the space shuttle and have it "take out the trash" ... Boom!


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06- 3-14 11:45 AM
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Sandra Bullock is the answer.


Posted by: Bave | Link to this comment | 06- 3-14 11:51 AM
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The Pacific Garbage Patch is bad, but it seems like its unlikely to reach the critical mass needed to cause a self-sustaining chain reaction.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 06- 3-14 11:58 AM
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See, if we just built a death ray satellite, we could use it to vaporize both the space trash and the ocean trash. We just need a Green supervillain, like in the first season of the Super Friends.

Does anyone remember the first season of the Super Friends? The supervillains were always misguided, rather than evil. It was very 70s.

14: I was prepared for many of the awkward conversations of being parent, but there was one I wasn't prepared for: explaining why the US canceled the space shuttle program.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 06- 3-14 12:20 PM
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Does anyone remember the first season of the Super Friends? The supervillains were always misguided, rather than evil. It was very 70s.

I remember!


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 06- 3-14 12:29 PM
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||

NMM to Alexander Shulgin.


|>


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 06- 3-14 12:48 PM
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11: I have no idea whether space junk or trash islands are worse, but we need more than a comparison of size of junk piles to tell, no? Seemed like one of the article's points was that even a collision of something you want intact with a very small bit of debris is a big deal. We need a badness per ton measure for each situation as well, to make your argument work, I guess is what I'm saying.


Posted by: remy | Link to this comment | 06- 3-14 1:06 PM
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We should also account for the differential effect per ton on sea turtles.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06- 3-14 1:09 PM
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Space Junk


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 06- 3-14 1:21 PM
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why the US canceled the space shuttle program

"Well, son, the space shuttles kind of sucked, and by the time we got around to realizing that, we had yet to get off our asses to build something better."


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 06- 3-14 1:28 PM
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DARPA had a concept where you would launch a small satellite that would then acquire and re-use parts from other (presumably dead) satellites in orbit... like, it would find a dead satellite, slice off said satellite's antennas, solar panels and radiators, and plug them into itself.

Also, some serious space hobbyists have been trying to reactivate a dead satellite in orbit.


Posted by: torrey pine | Link to this comment | 06- 3-14 4:57 PM
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About that garbage patch in the Pacific, of course a Dutch kid would've a solution for that.


Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 06- 4-14 5:38 AM
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And it's crowdfunded too if you want to contribute.


Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 06- 4-14 5:39 AM
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25: AFAICT that project is still asking for money for a feasibility study, making the headline linked to particularly annoying. Everyone thinks "we'll sinter the plastic together!" (*My* version sends the results north for the polar bears to rest on. And a pony!)


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 06- 4-14 11:48 PM
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I'm sure the polar bears would know how to properly appreciate a nice pony.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 06- 4-14 11:59 PM
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Mmmm, pony.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 12:09 AM
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24 is definitely the setup to a Star Trek episode. Launched four centuries ago to clean up orbiting debris, the Darpa AmalgoSat has been functioning ever since. Growing in size... growing in power... growing in intelligence. Now it has decided to solve the problem of orbital debris at the source - by using a salvaged 21st century particle cannon to incinerate Cape Canaveral!


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 6:55 AM
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On the original post, the Lagrange points are not close. It takes the same amount of energy to reach L4 and L5 as it does to reach lunar orbit.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 6:59 AM
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30: Reminded of Poul Anderson's 1962 short story "Epilogue." Not necessarily a great story overall, but a nice relatively early use of an evolved mechanical world (in this case starting from self-replicating boats that extracted minerals from the ocean. They do turn out to be "killer" robots but in a completely inadvertent way.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 7:32 AM
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