THE news that a piece of space junk collided with the robotic arm on the International Space Station, is an alarming reminder that what’s called “low Earth orbit” is becoming a crowded place. More and more stuff is out there, travelling at alarming speeds. The number of tiny satellites being sent up for broadband services is rapidly rising. All of this raises questions and a call for “responsible space behaviour”.
Should we be worried?
Many experts are saying so, among them Regius Professor of Astronomy at the University of Edinburgh, Andy Lawrence, who recently published Losing The Sky and takes part in a June 15 online event, organised by the Edinburgh Astronomical Society. Lawrence professes a love of astronomy, space exploration and the internet. “Until 2020,” he writes, “I assumed that these three loves do not clash…. It now seems that was just a Moon Age Daydream. A new generation of satellite megaconstellations is on its way, aimed at producing ubiquitous global high-speed internet connection. All very exciting – but these objects pollute the night sky, streak across our astronomical images, blare loudly and unpredictably at our radio telescopes, and increase the danger of spacecraft collisions.”