NASA May Move Space Junk With Lasers

Idea isn't to destroy pieces, but to prevent more collisions
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 16, 2011 6:49 PM CDT
NASA May Move Space Junk With Lasers
It's getting crowded up there with space junk.   (AP Photo/ESA)

What to do about all that space junk floating around Earth? A team of NASA scientists has a novel way to at least help manage the mess, reports Wired: Use lasers to push pieces on collision courses away from one another. The idea is to prevent smash-ups that create even more space junk—even a piece as small as a bolt can cause serious damage to satellites up there, or worse, contribute to the formation of a permanent junk belt.

"If you stop that cascade, the beauty of that is that natural atmospheric drag can take its natural course and start taking things down,” said the lead scientist. “It gives the environment an opportunity to clean itself up.” It's not a permanent fix, say other experts, more like an interesting short-term idea. Click to read about another idea that might help—a flying gas station for satellites. (More space junk stories.)

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