Space is stressed, it's time to clean up the junk

Private players have joined the race and often compete with each while stoking tensions



Cape Canaveral: A SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket carrying a communication satellite lifts off from pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Thursday, April 11, 2019. AP/PTI(AP4_12_2019_000007A)
Cape Canaveral: A SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket carrying a communication satellite lifts off from pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Thursday, April 11, 2019. AP/PTI(AP4_12_2019_000007A)

Published: Tue 28 Dec 2021, 11:10 PM

Tech titans launching into space could spark off conflict between countries beyond the earth. The main protagonists are the United States and China that have made rapid strikes in the sector in recent years, including a space station that houses astronauts. This has echoes of the Cold War in the domain but there are two key differences this time: the USSR does not exist; Russia has fallen behind China.

Private players have joined the race; they compete with each while stoking tensions, albeit unintentionally with their ambitions of taking space travel to another sphere even if it is only for a brief 10 minutes. Talk of instant gratification.

They are already raking in millions from the ultra-rich and adventurous, and this is only the beginning of paid trips to space. Those who can afford the costs go beyond the confines of the planet but the world and environment are likely to pay a price if governments do not step in to regulate the sector before it is too late.

These ultra-rich corporate czars are clearly not content with their achievements in technology and have raised their ambitions, which is great as they expand their horizons. But there’s a price to pay in the real world as we mentioned before. Let’s get down to brass-tacks.

The US and China are already embroiled in tensions over trade and foreign policy and a space crisis further complicates the relationship when the world is grappling with a health crisis caused by coronavirus. Now is the time to cooperate more to solve the world’s problems and priority must be given to end the pandemic. While Big Tech has kept us connected and productive during the ongoing crisis, those who head these corporations are investing their billions into space ventures to challenge themselves as they want us to believe.

They deserve plaudits and continue to inspire us. But not before we do something about the space junk that is threatening those travelling to the frontier.

Space vehicles and stations are both at risk with debris from past missions. Astronauts’ lives could be in peril when they head out on their missions or during paid journeys. China claims its space station is at risk from Elon Musk’s 1,600 satellites launched by his company SpaceX. The Tesla owner has been contracted to deliver another 16,000 satellites for varied purposes. It has been reported that 15,000 pieces of space junk are floating above the atmosphere.

All countries are responsible, including China and the United States for the state of affairs. It’s getting crowded out there with a lot of active satellites. Unless countries and corporations agree to clean up the junk, there is danger of conflict. Space wars will become a reality if militaries decide to shoot down satellites. China has already conducted an anti-satellite test, and other countries could follow suit. The space environment is stressed and is turning unhealthy and unsafe for humans. Let’s make it a frontier for peace.


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