Speaking of which, today’s edition of Technology Review has this unsettlingarticle about NASA’s projections of the growth of orbital debris over the next few centuries, and the potential hazards that it will create for satellites and manned space stations. Let’s just say that if Eliot could have glimpsed that future, he might have felt even more depressed than he did when he composed his classic bummer ballad.
The computer model predicts 178 collisions between satellites and space junk over the next 200 years. That will include 83 catastrophic collisions in low-Earth orbit, such as the February 2009 event in which a defunct Russian satellite smashed into an Iridium telecommunications satellite at 15,000 miles per hour.
That accident destroyed the Iridium satellite, shattering it into 2,000 new pieces of junk that someday, in turn, may collide with other satellites in what could turn into an orbital demolition derby. You definitely wouldn’t want to be Major Tom from David Bowie’s 1969 single “Space Oddity“, floating like a tin can out in the middle of that carnage.
But we digress. Here’s the news: