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About the "Space Junk" poll

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sbergman27
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OK. So maybe this is a bit of idle chatter. But if it's important enough to have a poll about, it should be important enough to have a thread.

"Space Junk" is a significant issue, and will likely become more so if we continue as we have in the past. But I didn't see an option in the poll which really satisfied me. But to explain why, I need to explain my view of my country's (the US) space budget. I've been watching for some 35 or 40 years, and see no indication that Americans are going to be willing to spend more than the current dollar a week per capita on the NASA budget in the foreseeable future. Thus, what precious funding which does exist must be allocated very carefully. (Off-topic remark: While I'm a fan of the manned space program, in light of the stubbornly parsimonious funding situation, I'd really rather see all the funding go into real science missions. There's no reason thatl TSSM and TPF should have been killed in order to facilitate an expensive space cowboy photoshoot opportunity on Mars plan which probably wouldn't survive pas the next administration, anyway.)

As I see it, there are a few issues. Does reducing space junk require additional funding? Or can it be reduced in a way which does not require additional allocations? How much does space junk cost new missions? What are the safety ramifications?

And, of course, a lot of that space junk is put up by private industry. Is the proper liability legislation in place to give corporations incentive to be responsible about (and for) what they send up?

To be honest, I haven't given the matter a lot of thought. But I thought the poll options were curiously limited, even taking into account the fact that poll options always have to be somewhat condensed.

-Steve

sigblips
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Space junk is in the news
sigblips
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Official ATA and AFSPC (Air

Official ATA and AFSPC (Air Force Space Command) announcements are here:

http://www.seti.org/page.aspx?pid=1297
http://www.afspc.af.mil/news/story.asp?storyID=123150121

Watch out space junk, you've been officially put on situational awareness!

Jens
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New plans for the ATA

Reading about the AFSPC as a potential user of the ATA was very interesting although for me just like for Steve it raised some questions:

1. Has the construction plan of the ATA been modified? In the article on the SETI-page it's talked about a expansion to 128 dishes and a later expansion of another 128 dishes. So the total amount would be 298 then? According to Wikipedia the original goal was to build 350 dishes.

2. Is it possible to simultaneously use the ATA for SETI and for the Space Situational Awareness program? If the answer is no: How much time would be left for SETI?

3. Are there concerns of a potential decline in private funding of the ATA? I suppose a number of private donors might be suspicious regarding a potential military/strategical use of this cooperation for the armed forces.

Don't get me wrong. I'm thrilled that the ATA is pulled out of hibernation and possibly even being expanded in the forseeable future. Nevertheless I think I'm not the only one asking himself these questions. 

Best regards
Jens

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Jens, good questions. Here

Jens, good questions. Here are my answers and thoughts:

1) The plan has been to build out the ATA in stages as funding becomes available. The ATA-350 is the finished size of the array. http://www.seti.org/ata/how-it-works

2) Q8 on the http://www.seti.org/page.aspx?pid=1297 page says that the AFSPC will use the ATA during the day and SETI / Astronomy operations will use it at night.

3) I don't know this answer but here is how I as a setiQuest volunteer and http://setistars.org donor feel about it. The setiStars donations needed to be a lot bigger to completely support the cost of operating the ATA.  It is better to have the ATA running with stable funding and looking for SETI than sleeping in hibernation. I want a good return on my setiStars investment. I want SETI to be detected.

sigblips
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Get out your Kevlar umbrellas

Get out your Kevlar umbrellas because a big piece of space junk is going to fall out of the sky sometime tonight.

http://www.cnn.com/2011/09/23/us/us-nasa-satellite
http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2011/09/23/uars-update-5-...

NASA says the odds of this space junk hitting someone are 1 in 3200. So stay safe Earthlings and good luck.

sigblips
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Just when you thought it was

Just when you thought it was safe to go outside again here comes another 2.4 ton piece of space junk. This time it is the German Roentgen Satellite (ROSAT) that is scheduled to drop sometime in the October-November time frame:

http://gizmodo.com/5845052/another-dead-satellite-is-blindly-plummeting-...

The experts are saying this falling satellite has a 1 in 2000 chance of hitting someone.

sigblips
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ROSAT is now expected to

ROSAT is now predicted to plummet to Earth on Saturday or Sunday (October 22 or 23):

http://www.space.com/13293-falling-satellite-german-rosat-october-reentr...

Approximately 1.7 tons of satellite debris are expected to survive re-entry and scatter across the Earth's surface. Track the re-entry here:

http://twitter.com/ROSAT_Reentry

Wagaga
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Each piece down to the size

Each piece down to the size of a 3" bolt is tracked. By calculating the orbits of these pieces, they can determine which path is the 'clearest' for the shuttle, the ISS, and other satellites. Occasionally, the ISS is 'boosted' to avoid a piece of debris that would come within a certain distance.

The junk they threw out today, I believe it was two pieces, were ejected by throwing in the opposite direction of motion of the station. This slightly slower speed will reduce their altitude, and eventually atmospheric friction will drag them down to Earth. Virtually thousands of pieces of space hardware has fallen back to Earth; occasionally it's found. So far, no pieces have caused any damage, at least none that I'm aware of.

~Timothy N. Batson