Humans have been polluting the Earth’s orbit with debris since the 1950s. Today, there are around 20,000 fragments of old satellites, rocket stages, and collision fragments orbiting our planet at speeds up to 17,500 miles an hour. Now, China has just introduced a proposal into smaller, less threatening pieces.
Using numerical simulation to test how a laser could impact the amount of space junk, Quan Wen and colleagues from Air Force Engineering University in China believe it is a feasible solution. The laser would be mounted to a satellite and launched into orbit, where it would emit short bursts of near-infrared light to break the debris down.
According to Wired, the team found when the laser’s inclination and right ascension were the same as the space junk it was aiming at, the laser-blasting was especially effective. The idea is not as far-fetched as it sounds.
“It provides the necessary theoretical basis for the deployment of space-based laser station and the further application of space debris removal by using a space-based laser,” the authors say.
This is just one advancement in a global effort to research ways to get rid of the space junk. The problem will only escalate if nothing changes, especially if space tourism takes off the way it’s expected to.