China aims lasers at space junk

  • 21/01/2018
Artist's impression if how a space laser might look.
Artist's impression if how a space laser might look. Photo credit: NASA

Chinese scientists have proposed cleaning the Earth's sky of space junk by shooting it with lasers.

There are an estimated 500,000 pieces of human-made rubbish floating in orbit, about 5 percent of it larger than a softball, including discarded satellites and broken rockets.

All of it poses a hazard to future space flights. NASA says even flecks of paint can damage spacecraft if they're travelling fast enough.

Researchers at the Air Force Engineering University in China think they've got the solution - take a leaf out of Star Wars and just zap it out of the sky.

In a paper published in Optik - International Journal for Light and Electron Optics, they say lasers can be used to push space debris closer to Earth. This might sound like a bad idea, but all but the very largest objects would burn up on the lengthy journey through the atmosphere.

Previous suggestions on how to make space empty again have included giant nets and magnetic harpoons. The advantage of using lasers is it can work on even the tiniest particles.


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