Space Junk | Scientists want to destroy space debris with lasers

Space Junk |  Scientists want to destroy space debris with lasers

VICTOR HABBICK VISIONS / Getty Images LIBRARY OF SCIENCE

  • The right lasers could melt space debris, like satellites, into plasma.
  • The secret is to focus on the pieces of space junk that we can reduce to nothing. Otherwise, blasting the wrong parts can create clouds of small debris.
  • The only problem: having a laser to eliminate space debris also means having a laser that could destroy active satellites.

    There are approximately 23,000 pieces space debris larger than 10 centimeters orbiting the Earth, of which approximately 3000 obsolete satellites, according to the Office of the NASA Orbital Debris Program (ODPO). If any of these pieces of space junk collided with each other, collisions could result in large strips of debris this could hamper many space activities, including the use of satellites, for generations.

    But common cancer treatment can turn that annoying space junk into harmless clouds particles called plasma, say Russian scientists. Laser ablation – the process of removing material from a solid surface by irradiating it with a laser beam – can destroy malignant tumors in the human body. It could also wipe out dead satellites.

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