ESA and UNOOSA illustrate space debris problem
by Staff Writers
Paris (ESA) Feb 12, 2021
Space debris is an issue of global concern that threatens our continued use of near-Earth space for the benefit of humankind.
To raise awareness about this growing problem, ESA and the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) have created a series of nine infographics and podcast episodes that tell the story of space debris, explain the risks and illustrate the solutions available to ensure future space exploration remains sustainable.
A limited natural resource
As satellite technology becomes ever more relied upon, it gets increasingly important to protect these unique orbital regions that are essential for humanity to, for example, gather data for weather forecasting and to better understand extreme weather and our changing climate, as well as for internet access, communication and location services.
A concern to all nations
In 2019, ESA's Space Safety programme was adopted as a key pillar in the Agency's activities. The programme, an expansion of the former Space Situational Awareness programme, includes ESA's Space Debris and Clean Space Offices, which are working to better understand the debris environment, prevent the creation of more debris, reduce the amount in orbit and lessen the impact of space activities on Earth.
In 2018, the United Nations General Assembly expressed its worry about the fragility of the space environment and the impact of space debris, which is an issue of concern to all nations. In 2019, the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS), of which UNOOSA is Secretariat, adopted the Guidelines for the Long-Term Sustainability of Outer Space Activities (LTS Guidelines), which provide guidance to help ensure the safe and sustainable use of space. The LTS Guidelines were subsequently welcomed with appreciation by the United Nations General Assembly, and a new working group will continue multilateral discussions on the topic.
Each of the nine infographics is accompanied by a podcast with audio commentary from ESA and UNOOSA experts, who help navigate and understand the material. Infographics and podcasts will be released here, once a week, over a period of nine weeks, starting on 10 February 2021, as well as via @UNOOSA and @ESA social media accounts.
"A new era of space has begun, in which large constellations of thousands of satellites are being launched to the skies," said ESA Director Jan Worner.
"What this 'New Space' makes possible - global internet access, telecommunications - it also threatens, as a rapid increase in space traffic may dramatically increase the chance of collisions. Innovative technologies, responsible behaviour and importantly international cooperation are fundamental to ensuring our future in space is sustainable."
UNOOSA Director Simonetta Di Pippo said: "Space has its limits. Space debris poses a clear risk for the long-term sustainability of outer space activities. UNOOSA welcomes working with our partners at ESA to disseminate clear, accessible public information on space debris that will increase awareness of the challenges they pose and contribute to strengthening international cooperation on mitigation measures."
Existential threat to the space economy in 2021
Bethesda MD (SPX) Feb 09, 2021
Many recent articles have expressed concern about the growing amount of junk floating around Earth in low orbits. Ultimately, the mass and distribution of junk and active satellites will exceed the capacity of space to safely contain the debris generated by the addition of more than an estimated 50,000 new satellites planned for deployment in the next few years. If and when this limit is reached our ability to travel in space may be greatly diminished. When will this happen? No one knows the answe ... read more
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