Space Junk 3D

Synopsis: Space Junk is a visually explosive journey of discovery that weighs the solutions aimed at restoring our planet's orbits.
Director(s): Melissa R. Butts
Production: Melrae Pictures
38 min

...a small piece of

space--they call it junk

--had been causing a big

headache for NASA scientists...

Houston is monitoring a piece

of debris that could possibly

pass in front of the International

Space Station's orbit...

...talking about this

6" square piece...

...of it colliding with the

International Space Station

is within the red threshold.

There is not enough time... seek shelter...

...travelling at

17,000 miles an hour...

...if it were to hit

the space station...

...could do a little damage...

...could really cause

a very bad day...

...6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 0...

The eagle has landed.

It's one small step for man,

one giant leap for mankind.

After half a century

of space exploration,

we're now suddenly faced with what's

long been a staple of science fiction:

an orbiting junkyard of

cast-off space debris.

The American southwest is

a breathtaking testament

to the forces of nature

that have shaped our world.

OK. We're comin' up on it now.

This is Meteor Crater

near Winslow, Arizona.

It is considered the world's best

preserved meteorite impact site.

Meet Donald Kessler, retired

head of orbital debris at NASA.

His guide, Eduardo Gonzales...

A 16-year veteran of Meteor

Crater and a man who shares

Kessler's passion for the

wonders of the universe...

So Don, how was your ride up here?

Oh, it was wonderful! It

was like landing on the moon!

But we're on earth! Can you believe it?

At Meteor Crater, they

always find common ground.

...result of a collision from the Asteroid

Belt that happened 50,000 years ago...

For Don, this place

brings some of the science

of orbital debris to life in a big way.

Follow me and I'll show you.

Nearly 1 mile across, 2.5

miles around and 550 feet deep,

Meteor Crater is the astounding

outcome of a nickel-iron meteorite

hitting earth with the energy of

more than 20 million tonnes of TNT,

creating all of this in just 10 seconds.

The fact that this meteorite came

from outer space makes me awestruck.

We're just seeing a

small slice of the process

that really made the Earth what it is.

It's a sobering reminder

of the incredible collisions

that occur throughout the universe,

from meteor impacts like this one

to the collision of entire galaxies.

Throughout time, space collisions have

occurred as part of the natural process.

Scientist believe that

billions of years from now,

our own Milky Way galaxy and its closest

neighbour, the Andromeda Spiral Galaxy,

could collide and merge to create

a new giant elliptical galaxy,

spewing stars along the way.


Collisions like this have

forever played a major role

in the creation and formation

of our own Solar System.

It's this natural process that

concerned Kessler over 30 years ago.

Kessler's question was: If all of these

collisions are occurring in nature,

what's going to happen to all of the

man-made objects we're putting into space?

At the time, Kessler's thinking

did not align with popular beliefs.

Ever since human ventured into space,

we've embraced the Big Sky Theory.

The theory holds that

the space is so big,

you could launch anything into orbit and

it wouldn't collide with anything else.

But it turns out that space

is smaller than we thought.

Low-Earth Orbit, or LEO as it's called,

is home to the International Space Station,

the Hubble Telescope and

most of our satellites.

In Middle-Earth Orbit, we find

GPS and weather satellites.

Geosynchronous Orbit, or GEO, the

orbit farthest away from the Earth,

is crowded with

communication satellites.

With so many objects careening

through the same altitudes,

it's not hard to imagine that

some may eventually collide.

Known as the Kessler

Syndrome, Kessler's prediction

stated that random collisions

between man-made objects

would create smaller debris that would

become increasingly hazardous to spacecraft.

The resulting chain reaction would create

exponentially expanding clouds of debris.

Even if we don't launch

anything else into space,

this orbiting belt of debris could very

well alter space exploration as we know it.

Is it possible that we're

now at the tipping point

of this cascading, uncontrollable event?

Alarmingly, in the three decades

since Donald Kessler's prediction,

the amount of debris in

Low-Earth and Geosynchronous Orbit

has grown at a rapidly expanding rate

into a minefield of discarded trash.

In the past, most of the small particles

came from the bigger objects falling apart.

In the future, and we're

reaching that threshold right now,

the objects are gonna come random

collisions, just like in the Solar System.

Just like our one Sun-spoiled

ecosystems here on earth,

our orbits are becoming

increasingly endangered.

From space exploration to

satellite communication,

humans have developed a

profound connection to space.

What would happen if it

were all to suddenly go away?

Launched in 1993, Cosmos

2251 provides communications

for Russian military and intelligence

forces from Low-Earth Orbit.

Satellites like this are part of

what's called "a constellation,"

a grouping of satellites spread

out in a set of orbital rings

providing an uninterrupted

stream of communications,

with each rotation in

as little as 90 minutes.

These and thousands of other

satellites orbit earth 16 times per day.

The gravitational pull from

nearby earth is so strong,

every satellite has to travel

at hyper-velocity speeds,

upwards of 17,000 miles per hour.

The pull of gravity, balanced

against the satellite's velocity,

creates this curved orbital path.

Satellites and their around-the-clock

services are a fact of modern life.

LEO is ideal for communication

satellites like Iridium 33,

which provides voice and data

coverage for cellular telephones.

With satellites like Cosmos and Iridium

constantly crossing each other's paths,

they often experience what satellite

operators refer to as "close approaches",

two satellites passing within just

a few short miles of one another.

Amazingly, that can happen

around 150 times a day.

Space is indeed a busy place.

Our planet's need for communication

has transformed what was once called

"the Final Frontier" into something far

less romantic and far more congested.

Just 50 years ago, the

boundary seemed limitless.

From a ground station nestled in

the mountains of Andover, Maine,

a signal is sent to

a speeding satellite.

An historic feat, that

could reshape man's future...

That satellite of course is the Telstar.

170 pounds of messages and computer data

all can be handled by the orbiting device.

Ironically, this technological

wonder dies one year later,

becoming as what is known

as a "zombie satellite."

Telstar began the

revolution in communications

that now features a fleet of

satellites in the region we know as GEO.

These satellites form a densely

populated belt that circles the Equator.

They facilitate most of

the world's television,

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Michael Benson

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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