Earth's Wasteful Habits Extend To The Final Frontier

Earth’s Wasteful Habits Extend To The Final Frontier

A tragedy similar to the “tragedy of the commons” is happening in space, where humans have been launching more and more objects into low-Earth orbit. There is no agreement on how to solve this issue, as there are no strict limits on further launches. The prevailing attitude has been to allow more objects in orbit without considering the consequences.

After many years of accumulating debris and unused objects in low-Earth orbit, the space environment is becoming overcrowded and potentially hazardous. This issue is expected to worsen with the introduction of satellite mega constellations, such as SpaceX’s Starlink and OneWeb’s project, which aim to launch thousands of spacecraft. Amazon’s Project Kuiper also plans to deploy a mega constellation of up to 3,200 satellites in the coming years.

Due to increasing congestion in space, there have been more incidents where orbiting objects come close to each other. The International Space Station often adjusts its orbit to avoid dangerous space junk. Additionally, there has been a rise in the risk of collisions, leading to the creation of more space debris.

For example, in February 2009, a collision between a defunct Russian satellite and a commercial spacecraft resulted in a significant amount of debris being produced.

Donald Kessler, a retired NASA scientist, believes that it is crucial for the world to prioritize finding solutions to remove space junk from low-Earth orbit. He warned about the same in the late 1970s, which came to be know as “Kessler syndrome,” a scenario where an increasing amount of space debris can lead to a dangerous cycle of collisions that could make low-Earth orbit too hazardous for space activities.

The community agrees that the amount of debris in space has reached a critical level where it will continue to increase even if no more launches take place. It usually takes a significant collision to make people take notice, and it is expected that such an event will happen soon.

The Kessler syndrome is already happening, with frequent collisions occurring on a smaller scale, according to a debris expert.

Reference- ESA, NASA,, Vox, Popular Science