It was the era of Elvis Presley and the Beatles. The King of Rock n Roll and the boys from Liverpool were ruling the music charts. It was the era of ‘Swinging 60s’. Amid this heady cultural and musical revolution, we humans actualised the dream, the imagination of ‘going beyond stars’ and ‘to moon and back.’ It was the beginning of the ‘space age’. From the launch of the Sputnik 1 in 1957 to the present day when we are trying to solve the deeper cosmic mysteries, the space age has entered a new phase. But all these exhilarating lift-offs from Cape Canaveral to Sriharikota have led to a new problem – cosmic pollution! Such is the state of the situation right now that the latest research shows that in near future, Earth is likely to have a Saturn-like ring, which will be made up of space junk!
University of Utah’s robotics professor Jake Abbot was quoted by The Salt Lake Tribune as saying that our planet is on its way to having rings that will be largely made of space junk. The scientist, who has worked in the field of magnetics for years is now trying to find a workable solution to clean up the cosmic mess. The European Space Agency’s new estimate suggests that there are around 170 million pieces of junk orbiting the Earth. Around 8,000 metric tonnes of space junk has been generated in the past couple of decades. The Department of Defense of the US has a separate network that specifically tracks the space junk. The Space Surveillance Network says that there are about 30,000 pieces of junk orbiting our planet that may prove to be trouble for all the satellites.
Professor Abbot says that on a theoretical level, his team has come up with an idea of a ‘tractor beam’, which works on the principle of magnetics. Because the metallic pieces are orbiting the Earth at a very high speed, it would be very difficult to clear up the space in a simple manner. On average, about 400 pieces of space junk fall on Earth every year. But the size of such pieces is very small and hence we don’t face any problem. But now, the researchers say that there are pieces that are almost the size of a softball. This can pose a challenge to the satellites as well as the International Space Station.