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5 Strange Ways to Clean Up Our Space Junk – The Countdown, Episode 42

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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According to NASA, more than 500,000 pieces of debris are tracked as they orbit earth. Individual pieces can travel at speeds of up to 28,000 kilometers per hour, creating a potentially dangerous situation for both satellites and astronauts alike. In this episode of The Countdown, we look at some of the strangest proposals to combat the ever-growing cloud of space junk. One of them, an electrified tether created by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, will launch on February 28th.

Video credits:

Host/writer: Sophie Bushwick
Production Assistants: Kathryn Free & William Herkewitz
Producer/Editor: Eric R. Olson

About the Author: Eric is multimedia journalist and producer who specializes in science and natural history. His work has appeared on the websites of Scientific American, Nature, Nature Medicine, Popular Science, Slate and The New York Times among many others. He is a former video producer & editor for Scientific American. Follow on Twitter @EricROlson.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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  1. 1. nsilicsr 2:09 pm 02/21/2014

    Typical launch costs today are $10,000 US Dollars (USD) to $25,000 USD per kilogram to get it into orbit. I’m surprised there would be no value in collecing the space junk into some sort of recycling center – maybe connected to the ISS – that could start sorting useable materials for reprocessing? I would think a half million pieces of debris would go a long way towards the fabrication of a Lunar or Mars mothership that would only need to travel from orbit to orbit and never have to land?

    Link to this

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