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Partner:European Space Agency (ESA)
Space Debris and the Kessler Syndrome explained
The opportunity for humans to live on another planet in the far future seemed to become closer and closer to reality. But, something could get in the way. As with everywhere humans go, they leave trash behind. This space debris could trap us on earth forever. Together with the European Space Agency, we delved into the impact of space debris on our planet and future space missions. Hop on our spaceship en get ready for the launch!
“Modern societies are increasingly dependent on applications and services through a space-based infrastructure. The growth of space debris puts the sustainable use of space at risk and ESA is very interested in raising the awareness about space debris. Working on an animation addressing space debris with the team of Cooler Media has been an excellent opportunity resulting in a concise, appealing, and content-rich video that supports ESA’s outreach spot-on.”
– Tim Flohrer | Head Space Debris Office | ESA
What is space debris?
Space debris is any artificial piece left by humans in orbit without a function. Examples of space junk are old sattelites, parts of a rocket, or small flacks of paint. Already more than approximately a million pieces of space junk larger than 1 centimeter have been detected. We can only imagine how many smaller, undetected pieces there are on top of that. Because of the growing number space missions, this number is expected to grow exponentinally in the upcomnig years.
Why is space debris a problem?
First of all large objects of space debris could harm working sattelites and disturb communication on earth. But that is not the worst problem. When two pieces of space junk collide, they produces smaller pieces. These pieces will further on collide with other pieces and the proces will repeat. This effect is known as the Kessler Syndrome. Alle these objects of space debris could make it harder, or worse, could make it impossible to acces space in the future.
Space Sustainability Rating: the solution?
Since there is no governmental control over space activities yet, only international guidelines, the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on Spance Technologies took matters into their own hands. By collaboration with ESA, among others, a scale is being developed to rate a space mission’s sustainability. The Space Sustainability Rating will hopefully increase tranparency and encourange responsible behavior in space in the future.
“I find everything to do with space very intriguing, so it was an great topic to make a video about. In addition, it was an amazing opportunity to work for the ESA!”
– Creative Animator Robin
At Cooler Media we spend a lot of our time on “free work” in the form of our AnyStories. The only requirement? “Make it bold!”
For this AnyStory about space debris our creative designer Robin created a custom, unique style. To give the video a science fiction look, we chose neon colors from the 80s. For the design Robin worked with a composition from the center with details on the side. This way, every single scene could be a movie poster. The design elements are subtly animated. This make sure the video is not too busy and the messaged is conveyd well.
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Space, the final frontier and a trillion-dollar industry according to the latest estimations. More and more companies are sending
rockets and satellites into space. But chances are this new
commercial space race will end before it can really take off…
Since the dawn of space exploration, humankind has left a lot of stuff in
earth’s orbit. Rocket parts, old satellites and other junk amounts to more than thirty thousand large pieces and millions of smaller parts of debris currently flying around our planet. For some pieces, it will take hundreds of years for them to fall back and burn up in our atmosphere. Some may even stay up there forever.
Now watch wat happens when two pieces collide more and more debris is created. This cascading effect is called the
Kessler Syndrome. The debris will become a huge swarm that forms a shell around the planet, destroying our satellites and knocking out global communication on the planet. The debris in our orbit would also prevent us from further space exploration and trap us on earth! It’s a big problem that won’t solve itself. So, what can we do?
First, we need to see the orbits around earth as a finite resource, like any other we rely on. Use too much of it and there will be nothing left. To do this we need to
regulate space traffic and waste disposal on a global scale. But that will take decades…
Commercial space organizations might offer a faster solution. A huge industry could be lost if they themselves do not act on the problem. The costs of evading debris and constantly adjusting to a growing swarm of junk is extremely high. A
clean orbit directly influences their return on investment. Building satellites and rockets that don’t leave debris is the most important step but we also need to clean up our mess.
In 2012 the European Space Agency started the
clean space initiative to minimize space activities’ impact on the Earth environment. It also aims to reduce the production of space debris and remove debris from orbit. One of the current ideas is to use a giant space garbage truck with tentacles that can grab larger pieces of debris. Other ideas propose using robotic systems to catch the bigger chunks. Living in perfect harmony with our environment is a goal to strive for, on earth and in orbit. So that maybe one day, we can all look at our old home from space.
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