Experts Want to Fight Space Junk With Harpoons

Garbage collisions in space risk starting chain reaction

By Newser Editors and Wire Services

Posted Apr 25, 2013 9:58 AM CDT

(Newser) – Experts want to use nets and harpoons to haul in space junk threatening the $100 billion worth of satellites currently in orbit round Earth. What sounds like a cosmic fishing trip is part of a raft of proposals to come out of a global conference on space debris ending today in Darmstadt, Germany. Others ideas include kamikaze robots and even lasers that act like Star Trek tractor beams.

Heiner Klinkrad of the European Space Agency says thousands of tons of debris are already orbiting Earth. He says five to 10 large objects need to be collected each year to prevent what is known as the Kessler Syndrome—when a few major collisions trigger a cascade effect in which each crash vastly increases the amount of dangerous debris in orbit.

In this still image made from video provided by NASA, a Russian cosmonaut installs shields to protect against zooming pieces of junk to improve the safety of his orbiting home Monday, Aug. 20, 2012.
In this still image made from video provided by NASA, a Russian cosmonaut installs shields to protect against zooming pieces of junk to improve the safety of his orbiting home Monday, Aug. 20, 2012.   (AP Photo/NASA)
This computer generated graphic provided by NASA shows images of objects in Earth orbit that are currently being tracked.
This computer generated graphic provided by NASA shows images of objects in Earth orbit that are currently being tracked.   (AP Photo/NASA)
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