Orbital Space Debris
The sun rose blindingly over the crest of the earth. The astronaut moved outside the Space Shuttle Discovery’s cargo bay in his Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU). Held by the shuttle’s robotic arm, a damaged satellite hung about 800 kilometers above the earth and a few meters below the astronaut. As the space walker hovered closer to the satellite, he looked down to see clouds covering parts of America, including his home state of Nebraska. The satellite was damaged badly. Sporting only one solar panel, it had a broken metal arm that made merely a stub on the other side. The day earlier, they had intercepted the missing solar panel, burned and smashed beyond repair. Upon inspection of the damages, both in space and back on earth where the satellite was taken, it was confirmed that a small piece of foreign space debris was responsible for knocking out this civilian communications satellite. While in the vastness of space, an accident like this seems only realistic in a Hollywood movie, but this fictional description is more real than what people realize. It has been fifty years since the launch of the first satellite, Russia’s Sputnik. Since then, as is the case with rapidly advancing technology, satellites have only proliferated and become more entrenched in society’s existence. This has created an incredible amount of crowding in the earth’s orbit that will only get worse as time progresses.