EXPRESS: Civilisation AT RISK. Space debris poses CATASTROPHIC ‘global disaster’
Dr Igor Ashurbeyli, who founded the Asgadia space nation, has pointed out that the satellites which operate mobile phone systems, televisions, radio signals, aeroplanes, electricity grids, street lights, pipelines and other vital infrastructure services are all under threat from a collision from space debris. He has urged world governments to take the issue far more seriously or face a potential global disaster. The problem of space debris was immortalised in the film Gravity, starring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock where the two play astronauts trapped in orbit after a blown up satellite destroys their Apollo craft.
As of January 2019, more than 128 million bits of debris smaller than 1 cm (0.4 in), about 900,000 pieces of debris 1–10 cm, and around 34,000 of pieces larger than 10 cm were estimated to be in orbit around the Earth.
One of the pieces is a hammer dropped by an astronaut which is travelling around the world at more than 17,500 miles an hour.
Smaller pieces can have the bigger impact than a bullet if they hit people or objects in space while larger items can have a massive impact.
Dr Ashurbeyli said: “Given our ever-growing reliance on orbiting technology, ensuring the lifetime safety of flight for satellites and future astronauts is now more important than ever because, if left unchecked, the dangers posed by space debris will rise exponentially.
“A cascading debris event - the spontaneous timing of which is wholly unpredictable by its nature - could have a devastating effect on the space infrastructure we have come to rely on so much.
“Our technological and commercial futures are at stake and the onus is on the whole space community to ensure the mess we’ve created on Earth isn’t replicated in orbit around our planet. Ultimately, safety in space is key for all operators and so far remedial actions are not being agreed or put in place anything like as quickly as they should be.”
The warning comes just a week after representatives from Asgardia’s 12 Parliamentary Committees and 12 Ministries gathered in Vienna with the members of the Supreme Space Council and the Head of Nation for a major conference.
The group warned that the threat of a single satellite collision should not be underestimated.
It can result in thousands of pieces of harmful debris, with the threat of serious follow-on collisions from post-fragmentation debris.
In fact, a big enough collision could create a debris field that has the potential to render a large part of an orbit unusable.
Satellites operate in low earth orbit (LEO), medium earth orbit (MEO) and geostationary orbit (GEO). LEO is most threatened by recent developments, but all three zones could be ineffective should current trends continue.
Congestion in space is getting worse. As of late 2018 the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) reported that there were 4,857 satellites in orbit, representing an increase of 4.79 percent compared to 2017.
EXPRESS вy DAVID MADDOX, POLITICAL EDITOR