In the 1980s, Jim Hollopeter helped design rockets that shot into orbit. Today, some of those launchers are still cluttering up space, and he wants to wash them away with a rocket-powered water gun.Pretty cool idea. Just as cool as the concept of a gravity tractor.
The volume of man-made space debris has grown so large that scientists say garbage now poses a bigger safety threat to the U.S. space shuttle than an accident on liftoff or landing. The International Space Station occasionally fires thrusters to dodge junk.
The problem hit home Feb. 10, when a defunct Russian military satellite smashed into an American one used for commercial communications, spewing shards across thousands of cubic miles.
The crash prompted Mr. Hollopeter to refine designs for a concept he had long toyed with: Using aging rockets loaded with water to spray orbiting junk.
His idea is that the extraterrestrial shower would gradually knock refuse down toward the atmosphere, where it would burn up, as would the launcher. The water would turn to steam.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Giving space junk a shower
What do you do when there's too much junk in orbit? One guy thinks we should hose it all down. Literally.