Thanks very much for your response to my previous emails (shown below).
I read about the half billion needles in an article about the problem of space debris by Irving Bengelsdorf, a fairly renowned science writer (I complained to the publisher that he didn't go nearly far enough in his complaints, and shortly thereafter they stopped publishing him, so I complained about THAT). He didn't give the details but (aside from his relative lack of concern, especially for the radiation issues) I think his information was always extremely reliable. I think that happened in the late 60's or early 70's but I'm not sure, and I doubt I can find the article back very easily and it may not have said. I don't think they would have done it much sooner or gotten away with it much later than that. The number he gave in the article was 400 million, not quite half a billion needles, according to a letter I wrote about it previously (I don't have the actual article in front of me).
Dr. Nick Johnson's email address is:
"JOHNSON, NICHOLAS L. (NICK) (JSC-SN3)" firstname.lastname@example.org
Below are two letters about space debris which I recently (last week) wrote to a high school senior (the initiating email is also attached). In them I to give a fairly complete overview of the problem in laymen's terms. I forwarded my responses to Dr. Johnson.
As to my own qualifications, I don't mind you asking, but it certainly DOES bother me when debates come down to that so quickly, even with people who are quite famous. Always asking me about my credentials when the facts don't go their way (which I'm not saying is what you've done, but another email on my desk which I'm trying to get to this morning goes that route).
Well, I'm a high school graduate of a college prep school (graduated 1974) with some college. I dropped out of Penn State the first year with a 3.78 GPA, for reasons not related to academic desires. My parents are both members of academia. I've been married for 23 years and my wife and I are both independent computer programmers in different fields, each with over 20 years in the business (she mostly writes and teaches now).
Starting in 1984 I wrote a 100,000 line Assembler language animation tool and I now distribute software written for and with that tool, which is sold to schools, colleges, universities, hospitals, and to many different industries (and even sometimes to the military). I run a one-person company called The Animated Software Company (see www.animatedsoftware.com for more information). I have worked extensively with a 501(c)-3 non-profit corporation called Global Energy Network Institute (GENI) and through that work I am familiar with Earth's energy alternatives. One of my tutorials is called All About Pumps, the glossary of which on the web gets thousands of visits each week (last Friday I sent out "beta" test versions of the new CD-ROM release, with six new pumps described.)
Because of my work in the pump industry I've seen that there are fantastic new efficient pumps which industry could adopt but hasn't. It's a shame. The pump inventors come to me because they find the glossary of pumps at my web site and wish to have their devices added. It's hard work and doesn't pay well, but the pump industry has been very positive about the work, and the animations are used all over the world in pump training classes and such. I researched, animated, wrote and programmed the All About Pumps tutorial. No one asks me what my CV is there, they just like it!
I have interviewed dozens of scientists and inventors over the years, and nearly all the "big names" who oppose nukes in space. Perhaps the biggest (most respected living) is Dr. John W. Gofman, and another was the late Dr. Karl Z. Morgan (father of the study of radiation, i.e., "health physics"), and Dr. Horst Poehler, Dr. Ernest Sternglass, Dr. Jay Gould and more.
I became concerned about the space debris issue decades ago. I can't recall when. I'm 44 now, and it might have been as long ago as 30 years, or at least 25. In 1995 I did a radio broadcast about the problem (at my own expense) which I transcribed and placed on the World Wide Web. That article is still being pretty widely read and might be the one you found that caused you to write to me. Karl Grossman read it and, seeing the comments disparaging the idea of nuclear waste being rocketed into space, he contacted me about Cassini. I thought we stopped rocketing radioactive materials into space after the 1964 SNAP-9A accident (I was about 8 at the time). I was simply misinformed. What we did after SNAP-9A is we put tiny, ineffective containers around the stuff, and were continuing to launch it, as Karl's information showed me.
Lastly, I wanted to comment about the "spy" or infiltrator problem I talked about in my last email. It may seem to be irrelevant to the bigger issues. After all it's not like I've been shot at or anything. In fact, no direct or overt malice whatsoever has come to me from my crying out and I thank the government for that, although we have civil liberties here which I'm sure have been violated. I'm sure my phone's been tapped and my emails and perhaps my mail too has been opened and read. I don't know if that still goes on, but the mysterious clicks and static on the phone *have* stopped (for now). It used to be particularly bad when I'd talk to certain people, as though a whole bunch of NSA people were hooked into the line or something. But I can only begin to tell you about the many friends I've met along the way, who have been scared by "black helicopters" and such activities. Pilots are given a coordinate to go hover over at night. They don't know who's house it is, but it scares the bejeezes out of some activist! So it really is important to complain about that stuff too! Frankly, "manipulation" of the media at crucial times when public attention is high is vital to any movement (no offense intended, though!). To infiltrate an organization is bad enough, but to actually install a spy at the head of the movement? That's Chutzpah! Yet that is what I believe the government has done. I have seen it with my own eyes, many others have commented on parts of it that they've seen, and it is so obvious, it would surely be a crime to be silent.
At 10:03 AM 3/19/01 -0500, you wrote:
Thanks, sir, for your lengthy response to my question. You gave me much to
think about. One of the many curiosities you mentioned was the launch of a
half-billion little needles?! When was THAT? Are those in near-earth orbit
And I wonder if you can tell me how to reach Dr. Johnson at NASA, so I can hear the 'official company line' on this mess. Also, how about your CV? Besides being an author and web entrepreneur, how did you become so involved
in the space debris issue?
FIRST CORRESPONDENCE WITH A HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT:
To: Alaina R, Senior, High School
From: Russell Hoffman, Concerned Citizen
Re: Space Debris (an answer to your letter)
Date: March 13th, 2001
Thank you for your email (shown below). I think you've chosen an excellent topic, because it's one that, while controversial to those who know what's going on, is largely being ignored by the media. Too complicated, I suspect, and (seemingly, to them) too far away. But it's a problem we should be dealing with right now! Unfortunately it will probably take a catastrophic and indisputable collision with space debris, say, of the International Space Station, to even begin to wake people up to this inevitable tragedy.
The mess is in need of immediate clean-up, to what extent it can be done at all. There is a lot that could be done besides merely mitigating making more messes by restricting space to those with a reasonable need to be there. But even that isn't being done. If you have the money to get there, you can go, and leave behind anything you wish.
However, although it will be extremely difficult and expensive, some forms of mitigation must be undertaken. There are numerous orbital areas right now which are extremely dangerous and are basically not being used because of all the debris in them. That debris spreads out over time. Many shuttle flights have been diverted over the years because of potential collisions with known -- and I emphasize "known"! -- pieces of space debris. Diversions happen when the shuttle and the piece of space debris are calculated to both enter an area variously reported by the media as about 5 miles on each side, or 6 or 7 kilometers -- something like that. A cube. Maybe it's even a square five miles "in each direction". You can ask NASA, they might tell you (but then again, it might only be a PR person's answer, and not at all accurate).
Anyway, consider this: 5X5X5=125 cubic miles of space. That sounds like a lot of room to keep things away from the shuttle, but the shuttle -- or a piece of space debris -- travels at about 18,000 miles per hour. So it passes a 5 mile long distance in space in about a second. And each piece of space debris, of nearly 10,000 pieces of space debris that they track which could demolish the shuttle if they collided, travels at about 18,000 miles per hour too. So that's a lot of calculations that have to be made for a two-week flight, for instance. And have to be recalculated every time the shuttle maneuvers in a new direction for any reason. It's never exactly on target anyway -- no calculation of its position is going to be 100% accurate, and a minute later it's 300 miles away.
But of course, that's only the calculations they do for starts. A lot of the orbital debris they track, they can't track all the time because it goes out of range of the tracking devices. For example at the height the space shuttle normally flies (around 250 miles above the Earth), they can see about a 1 inch diameter sphere, at best. An object might be easy to see from one angle but very hard to see from another. All of the objects are tumbling at various rates, and so sometimes you see them, sometimes you don't, depending on how reflective the part facing your sensors is. Out 25,000 miles, they would have trouble seeing even something as big as a washing machine.
And, they can't calculate the positions of even much of the big stuff a lot of the time -- it gets lost for one reason or another, and doesn't reappear where they expect it when it goes out of range. Much of it is in elliptical orbits, which may go very far (and very close) to Earth. If it goes close enough to Earth our atmosphere will degrade its path a little each time until eventually the object will be captured, and then usually it will incinerate in our atmosphere. Depending on the chemical composition of the object, this can be quite pretty. This incineration will render most of the debris harmless -- a little more aluminum dust or titanium dust and so forth in the atmosphere probably isn't something to worry about (house fires probably put more aluminum dust into the atmosphere each day than NASA's worst re-entry accident ever could). The space debris that's the worst problem for those of us still on Earth would be, besides large pieces the don't incinerate completely, the radioactive space debris, of where there is quite a bit (dozens of reactors, RTGs (Radioisotope Thermo-electric Generators, for instance), and RHUs (Radioactive Heater Units). The radioactivity is not reduced or changed by incineration, it's just spread around in fine particles (the worst thing you can do with it). Any pieces of debris which are too big to incinerate are also, of course, a hazard, since they might land either on our heads or, worse for society, on our nuclear power plants, nuclear dumps, nuclear weapons facilities, nuclear... you get the idea. Or on our other dangerous environmentally poisoned-but-contained areas.
Anyway, back in space. They track nearly 10,000 pieces of space debris, but there are literally millions of pieces out there which are big enough to catastrophically damage the space shuttle if it is hit by one of those pieces -- bigger than a lentil bean but not big enough to be seen by NASA and Air Force tracking stations. You don't need something the size of a flying washing machine to do damage to a space shuttle. Because of the kinetic energy the objects have (due to their high speed), a tiny pellet, about the size of a lentil bean, or even smaller, is enough to do catastrophic and probably fatal damage to the space shuttle! They can't see that coming.
But if that's the problem, what can be done?
Clearly, we need to stop making more space debris as quickly as possible and as much as possible. This, the space community will tell you they are doing. But the space community has allowed several satellite systems to go up and become almost instant space debris -- the Iridium constellation of mobile-phone-supporting satellites being probably the most famous such system. Lots of space missions are of little use to society, or worse, they are of no use or even destructive! How so?
Because they are military, and the militarization and subsequent inevitable weaponization of space is a major danger. As one side puts up weapons, so too will others. France, England, China, Korea, Russia, India, Pakistan -- everyone that wants to be a player sees the United States putting up these weapons and control systems and so forth, and the other countries will then feel both obliged and permitted to do so themselves, just like they did/do with nuclear power plants, with nuclear bombs, and of course, with less dangerous American things like Coke and Pepsi. What we do often sets the pace for other countries, and that's why it's so important that we lead the way in correcting this particular environmental disaster that is happening above our heads.
Russia has left about two dozen nuclear reactors in space. Some are leaking primary coolant, which is extremely radioactive. Some have already been damaged or destroyed by space debris. All are falling to Earth, the longest life span before they incinerate in our atmosphere and spread their radioactive payloads is 1000 years, and 400 years is not uncommon and some are possibly in even less stable orbits.
These are being ignored by NASA, on the grounds that they didn't put them there so they are not NASA's problem. But NASA responsibility, as laid out in their charter, is to use space for the benefit of all mankind! So clearly, all space debris, and especially nuclear waste in space, IS NASA's problem, since they are supposed to represent the people in space. And besides, the U.S. military have placed their own nuclear reactors in space, and probably plenty of military RTGs and RHUs. Why doesn't NASA retrieve even these for proper Earth burial (or send them further away, ultimately to the sun, for an even better burial, now that they are part way there to begin with (I'm not suggesting that is a safe way to dispose of nuclear waste which is on earth))? Instead of helping, NASA is still at the stage where they basically pretend the problem isn't significant, or that it's under control somehow by what few mitigation steps they currently take, like, trying to ensure that ALL the fuel burns in each stage, so that the stage can't blow up later (which has been known to happen). Of course, that step is not 100% successfully carried out each time. And so it goes. Those Russian nukes I keep mentioning -- they were only used for 90 days at a time! And they will be circling us for 400 to 1000 years unless we do something smart, or they are smashed by space debris and rendered irretrievable!
So, I'm delighted that you're interested in this topic. The very fact that you've learned about it at all shows that those few of us who speak out have gotten our message somewhere -- a high school student somewhere on Spaceship Earth. I apologize for the length of this letter, I'm not sure which letter of mine you read, so I'm not sure what you've already learned about the topic. I hope you feel this has been a useful overview.
You asked about contacts at NASA itself. There is a department there -- who I wish would offer me a job doing THEIR "PR" (but that's not very likely!) that handles this topic exclusively. I think their main job is to placate the public -- tell us it's not so bad.
But you should contact them yourself, as at the very least they can give you more exact numbers (one would hope, anyway) for all the things I've stated in this letter -- they can back me up, as it were, or deny the things I've said. And I'm sure they should hear that the public cares.
But most of all, you should contact them because you asked a question I haven't answered and can't answer: How to fix the problem. It takes money, and NASA refuses to put ANY of its budget into retrieval or further boosting of the various nuclear payloads it put up itself, or knows about, like Russia's (Russia sure isn't going to do anything). But all NASA does is study it, study it, study it, trying to get an exact count of what's up there, and every once in a while some crack-pot scientist or engineer trots out another impossible solution, but in reality they don't even slow it's growth. When the world economy does poorly and space travel is at a minimum, space debris growth also is at a minimum. When times are good and there are lots of flights, space debris growth is at a maximum.
One more problem to consider: We may have reached a "critical mass" already (no one knows, but they keep studying it to try to find out) where the debris collides with itself so much and so often that "pretty soon" (A hundred years? A thousand???) you have hundreds of millions of pieces of debris, a cloud of debris, which will be both radioactive and traveling at 18,000 miles an hour. And no one will be able to leave the planet (or come in). And it may even shade the Earth causing global cooling (which would hardly be a good answer to the problem of Global Warming!) Some scientists have suggested that this scenario is already possible without adding any more new debris. So isn't it time society as a whole at least look at the situation for once? Hardly anyone knows about the problem and NASA isn't talking.
Here's Dr. Nick Johnson's email address:
"JOHNSON, NICHOLAS L. (NICK) (JSC-SN3)" email@example.com
Dr. Johnson is the head of NASA's Orbital Debris Research Project. I hope the email address is still good; I haven't emailed him in a while. I'll take the liberty of forwarding this response to him, and I also encourage you to contact him and perhaps he will respond to you directly, correcting, refuting, or (in some way) agreeing with my assessment of the situation.
In any event thank you again for writing and good luck on the project! Feel free to write again. I'll try to answer more briefly if you have any further questions.
At 07:19 PM 3/12/01 -0500, you wrote:
My name is Alaina R. and I am a senior in high school. We are required to do a senior project which must be based upon a controversial issue. I have decided to choose "Space Debris: How to Fix the Problem" as my topic.
I was reading through your website and found the letter that you wrote to NASA. I thought that you raised some important issues in that letter and found it very useful.
I was curious as to whether you still had the address that you sent that letter to or not. I would also like to know if I may have an interview with you since I found your letter so useful.
I look forward to your response. Thank you.
Get your FREE download of MSN Explorer at http://explorer.msn.com
END OF FIRST CORRESPONDENCE WITH H.S. STUDENT ALAINA R.
Alaina then asked some good specific questions:
SECOND CORRESPONDENCE WITH ALAINA R.
At 09:30 PM 3/13/01 -0500, you wrote:
Good Evening. I would like to thank you for taking the time to respond to my letter and I would also like to thank you for Nicholas Johnson's email address. I am sure that it will prove as useful as the rest of the information that you have already provided for me.
I was looking over your website again and found a radio broadcast that you did. Inside I found some good backround information that I could use in my report. I would like for you to give me permission to quote pieces of that broadcast and other information from your website/email.
Although the information you have provided will be very useful, there are still a few questions that I have about space debris. Will you please answer the following questions as well as you can?
1. How fast is the average particle of debris moving at? And at what sort of pattern do they orbit the earth? (circle, optical, elliptical, etc.)
[[[ The average particle moves at about 18,000 miles an hour, and I believe it is in what one would probably call a fairly circular orbit. I'm not sure what you mean by an "optical" orbit. All orbits are elliptical, a circular orbit being a special case of an elliptical one. -- rdh ]]]
2. Are there any plans to be rid of this debris and to what extent are they actually being used? (I doubt that they are in effect very often since the problem has become so big.)
[[[ I know of NO plans to attempt to remove any of the debris currently in space. None! There are some proposals for schemes that could be studied to see if they could be effective, most are pretty far-fetched, but nothing is being done about the pieces that do exist. In many cases this makes sense insofar as, attempting to get pieces can be quite difficult and the inherent dangers in space flight apply to recovery missions as well -- so collecting the debris can actually cause the creation of more debris! That's why, until safer delivery systems for getting into outer space exist, we need to at least stop making more debris. Or stop making so much! Cables made of "nanotubes" are one possibility for a safer way to get into outer space. That might be a few decades off, but so what? How long did it take Egypt to build the Pyramids? And as far as we know, they didn't even do anyone any good! If a nano-tube launching rail would take a trillion dollars to develop and 20 years design and build, it's probably worth it, and worth waiting for. But just as, below space, we keep using airplanes and cars to get around when really high-speed magnetic levitation is a better choice than airplanes for most routes (in low-pressure tubes filled with a light gas such as a non-flammable hydrogen-based mixture, or helium or something) and bus service is a better choice than cars for humanity to use, so too in space, we rush bullheaded forward but in the wrong direction and for the wrong reasons. -- rdh ]]]
3. What funds are actually being used towards this problem? If none, then why aren't there any? Is there a research and development team organized to deal with this problem?
[[[ We similarly don't fund the search for catastrophic asteroids which might impact Earth. We need to find them early so we can nudge them out of alignment with Earth. Fortunately Jupiter (more than anyone else) has been vacuum-cleaning the solar system for many thousands of millennia, and asteroid impacts are rare, but they could wipe out civilization, which is a pretty severe price to pay for our inattention. Anyway, as far as I know all the space debris funding goes into researching the exact extent of the problem to three or four or whatever decimal places. The main theory they seem to develop is that the problem isn't really all that bad, or can simply be solved by slowing the creation of more by a few tiny, voluntary industry steps, but in reality the long-term prognosis is death and dismemberment of some of our favorite heros time and again for the silliest of reasons. Because NASA really doesn't care about this problem, especially the radiation issue. -- rdh ]]]
4. All of the space debris is colliding, thus causing more space debris. Within the next thousand years, will it be to the point where we cannot enter or exist through any part of the atmosphere?
[[[ I don't think anyone knows if it will reach a "critical mass" at all, let alone when. Of course it's going to depend on how soon we stop adding more junk! But a thousand years is a long time for stuff flying around at 18,000 miles an hour around our small planet (Earth is ~8,000 miles in radius). It might depend more on whether or not some very large pieces do (or don't) get pulverized than simply on how much time passes. But sooner or later the debris is going to hit the big fan, so to speak, and what happens then is that even if one piece is fairly small, both pieces become completely pulverized, and there are suddenly millions of new pieces shooting apart from each other in new orbits. Two pieces become two million in an instant. If, say, 10 or 20 of the largest pieces randomly have this happen to them, we might be a lot closer to a dust storm of radioactive debris than if only one or two of those large pieces get smashed. So you see, it's not necessarily dependent on time, so much as just plain dumb luck (or bad luck). The lower energy the colliding pieces have, the better. If both are in what are called Near Earth Orbits you're in luck because most of the resultant spray will still be in low orbits, liable to be slowed down by the atmosphere and recaptured. Of course, if it's radioactive and you are a human or other living thing on Earth, this is bad, but if you're an astronaut about to "run the gauntlet" of space debris into outer space, every piece that comes back to Earth is good. Talk about your double-edged swords! -- rdh ]]]
5. Aproximately how much money would be needed to start the cleanup of our atmosphere? Is it possible to start researching that area?
[[[ Technically, the space debris problem is going on *above* our atmosphere, at least until it incinerates. In any event, I'm sure it would take hundreds of billions of dollars to clean up the mess, maybe trillions. I'm sure no one knows exactly. But, that's what government is for. Spending money where it's needed. I'm sure the spin-off technologies that would come from this research would be of some use to society, as well as the jobs that would be directly created. For one example of what we can only do if we keep space clean, we could build space-based mirrors to shine evening light on a city. That is a very ecologically friendly way to reduce crime, prevent automobile accidents, save energy by eliminating outdoor lighting for a few hours each night, and do all this using the ideal spectrum of light available from the perfect nuclear reactor (one 93 million miles away, nowhere near any human being and not liable to catastrophic failure for several billion more years) -- but if too much debris is up there, the mirrors will get damaged too soon and the idea will become too expensive (huge extremely cheap and accurate mirrors can probably be manufactured in orbit using plastics) -- rdh ]]]
6. There is a system where they have tracked almost every piece of debris that there is. IF this system does exist, then why are they not using it to clean up the atmosphere?
[[[ There is no such capability at this time. They can only track a small percentage of the debris at all. They track approximately 1% of the debris which is in fact large enough to destroy the space shuttle should it get hit by that debris. That's how little they actually track. That's how bad the problem really is! And knowing where it is doesn't mean you can go get it. That's a much more difficult task. -- rdh ]]]
7. Radioactive particles: How harmful are they if they fall to the Earth? Is there a way to ensure that these would be cleaned up if they fell?
[[[ How dangerous radiation is, is a big topic in and of itself. Numerous scientists have studied the problem. I've interviewed many dozens of scientists, pro and con. Con, for all theirs being a supposedly minority viewpoint, seem to be a lot easier to find and to interview. The "pro-nuclear" scientists always end up being specialists who confess to not understanding or not being qualified to speak on one portion of the project or another. No one at NASA or who supports NASA that I've yet found claims to be qualified to answer all my questions, or even tries to. This, I think, is a major part of the problem of why the radiation issue has gone on unchecked for so long. Everyone in the industry just assumes the someone else in the industry either has a solution or will find one soon. But no one has a solution, and no solution is presently forthcoming.
One of the best radiation specialists I've ever met or heard of is Dr. John W. Gofman. A web site which includes a lot of his information is www.ratical.org . Go to the Radiation area.
Even one atom of radioactive material can cause cancer. The stuff is incredibly deadly. And it's a nasty, evil death -- cancer is no picnic, nor is leukemia or birth defects. These are the main dangers from radiation at any dose level (only the rate among a population declines as the dose level declines. The severity of the effects remains identical).
Plutonium, for instance is considered by most scientists to be the most deadly substance humans have ever dealt with. And we made all of it! Well, 99.9999999% or something of it is man-made. Yet NASA and Russia routinely launch thousands or even hundreds of thousands of Curies of plutonium into space, some on "secret" missions, some, the cover projects, on things like Cassini, Galileo, Ulysses, and other nuclear missions. Any of these missions can fall back to Earth, and NASA's estimates of the dangers do not hold up to experience or to any other scientifically reasonable standard.
Most other things would simply incinerate, like viruses and bacteria and such. Radioactive particles will be impossible to clean up because they would be spread all over the world and, having been vaporized, would be extremely small (NASA estimated that from 33% to 66% or even all of Cassini's payload would have been vaporized in a reentry accident, for instance). Then, merely a month after Cassini, they showed how completely they had botched the estimate of their ability to complete flyby-type maneuvers reliably, when they crashed a probe into Mars on an "orbital insertion" which of course is very similar mathematically to a flyby.
The vaporized deadly dust from a plutonium reentry would be too small for most filters, let alone to find and pick up (with gloves on) and "dispose of properly" (a misnomer, since there is no known proper burial). There is no such thing as being so small as to be harmless. That's the big lie the nuclear industry offers up, that dilution is their ultimate solution to pollution. But all dilution really does, is it makes it impossible to tell where the cancers come from. They still occur. We live on a planet full of people -- six billion of us -- so very small effects -- say, something that kills only one in 1,000,000 people can kill thousands of people around the world and be very difficult to spot. If something like that can be prevented, it should be. That something is radiation. It probably kills far more than 1 in 1 million right now. Maybe more like one in 10 or one in 20, or one in 100, but it's a lot more than one in one million, that I'm sure of. One in one million people per year would be 6,000 people killed by excess radiation in our environment, specifically either the amount above original background level (which we can do nothing about, and advanced forms of life had to wait for that level to DROP before we could even exist!), and unnecessary or unnecessarily large x-rays. I'm sure the actual number of deaths from excess radiation right now each year is far more than that, but how can one know? To make your own estimate, I guess you can start with a review Gofman's literature as mentioned above, and there are scores of other scientists who have spoken out (Dr. Rosalie Bertell writes very compelling material, as does Dr. Helen Caldicott, Dr. Michio Kako (who also speaks out about space debris), Dr. Ernest Sternglass, and many others). -- rdh ]]]
8. Why can't the satellites pick up on the bigger sized pieces?
[[[ Which satellites would do this? You have to match speeds, it's very hard work. Expensive and also dangerous. And worst of all there's no profit from it. Probably with some exceptions, few of the pieces of junk are really all that valuable, though all of them were fairly expensive to make and put up there. -- rdh ]]]
9. How can we stop making space debris when we need to be going back and forth from the space station several times a year?
[[[ Fortunately the space station is in a pretty low orbit, so debris made down there tends to falls to Earth relatively quickly because the atmosphere occasionally reaches up that high, as during a solar flare, for instance. But the best way to stop making debris, or at least one good way, would be to abandon satellite missions that are not useful to humanity -- wasteful missions that only serve a few, or which could be accomplished some other way. For example high-altitude solar-powered drone (unmanned) aircraft could provide wireless telecommunications capabilities, for instance, over the entire globe, and when their equipment failed they could be landed and repaired, whereas most satellites must be written off completely if they fail. And a faster, better, cheaper (to shamelessly borrow a phrase from NASA) land-based fiber-optic Internet would be far more useful than one that bounces signals up to a few bottlenecks in space and back. So right there are two ways we can eliminate a lot of the space missions as big wastes of money. If those space missions are stopped by using better alternate technology, there will be that much less debris. Next we can pretty easily argue against about 90% of the military missions as being frivolous, or in violation of international treaties, or of our civil rights, or as simply too dangerous or because they damage the delicate balance of power among nations and THAT is dangerous. So there are ways to reduce the growth, but we have to actually take these steps, instead of just studying to the third decimal place, what's up there. -- rdh ]]]
If you have some information that you can give me about these questions it would be greatly appreciated. I am also forwarding a copy of this to Nicholas Johnson. Thank you for all of the help you have given me. It is greatly appreciated and I hope to hear from you soon.
[[[ Here is the URL of the NASA debris web site:
-- rdh ]]]
END OF SECOND CORRESPONDENCE WITH ALAINA R.