A piece of space junk that has been floating through space is expected to fall onto the moon on Friday morning, marking the first time a piece of space debris has struck the lunar surface by accident.
At 5,800 miles per hour, the debris will slam with the moon’s far side, leaving up a crater 30-60 feet across. While this may appear worrying, the moon’s incredibly thin atmosphere allows things to easily collide with it, resulting in the pockmarked surface we see today.
According to John Crassidis, a space debris expert at the University of Buffalo, “the moon will be just fine.” Nonetheless, the finding demonstrates that there are more causes for concern about the problem of space junk, or abandoned launch items floating around in orbit. “For now, we’re taking our Earth problems to the moon,” Crassidis argues.
Humans are releasing more objects into the atmosphere and into space, increasing the likelihood of space debris. In Earth’s orbit, about 27,000 particles of space trash are being tracked, but many more are too small to be observed.
“Can you imagine what would happen in 50 years if we do nothing to address this problem?” “I believe we’ll be in a lot of danger,” Crassidis predicts. This is due to the Kessler Syndrome, which occurs when the density of space junk in orbit around Earth reaches a threshold mass, resulting in even more collisions and debris.
According to Crassidis, attaining that point would imply “the risk of a collision is so high that placing something in low-Earth orbit isn’t going to be worth it.”
It also poses a threat to astronauts. The International Space Station has already had to keep a watch out for quickly debris and modify its trajectory to prevent collisions, but additional space trash increases the chances of being struck, putting humans onboard in danger.
Another issue raised by the space trash that will collide with the moon on Friday is how polluting parties will be held accountable.
Bill Gray, an asteroid watcher, found the crash trajectory in January. He first assumed it was a SpaceX Falcon rocket upper stage from a launch in 2015. However, in February, he stated that the space trash was most likely created by a Chinese rocket during a flight in 2014.
Chinese officials say the debris is not theirs, claiming it re-entered Planet’s surface and burned away. The rocket portion, however, never deorbited, according to the US Space Command. Even though the part does come from China, there is no system in place to hold the country accountable for more space debris.
The UN’s Space Debris Mitigation Guidelines are in force, and they require governments to voluntarily reduce the risk of space debris and unintentional collisions, avoid purposeful collisions, and limit the presence of spacecraft in low-Earth orbit once their missions are completed.
However, the recommendations, which were released in 2010, haven’t stopped numerous countries from manufacturing space debris, both mistakenly and intentionally. In recent years, both India and Russia conducted anti-satellite tests to explore if they could destroy their own space objects in low-Earth orbit, resulting in debris.
In a statement at the time, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said, “It is evident that China is failing to satisfy acceptable norms for their space debris.” In terms of solutions, the amount of debris that can be gathered by clean-up methods is still limited. There are no intentions to slow down the rollout of new products.
Any trash regulation or mitigating efforts, according to Crassidis, would have to come through governments.
“Clearly, there are far more greater priorities given what’s going on in the globe today,” he argues.