Artificial Satellites, From Glory To Space Junk
In the billions of years before 1957, the space around the Earth remained pristine. Then came the objects no. 1 and 2 in the NORAD catalog: Sputnik 1 and the rocket that the Soviet Union used to launch it. Sputnik circled the planet in an elliptical orbit, but at an altitude so low that atmospheric resistance caused it to drop in three months.
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The following year, NASA launched object No. 4, the Vanguard 1, of which, however, contact was lost. Drifting from 1964, it still revolves around the planet.
At the height of the Cold War, Sputnik and Vanguard were the emblems of a grandiose technological development. Today they are just garbage. Space junk.
Since 1957, humanity has placed nearly ten thousand satellites in the sky.
All but 2800 which are still operational now no longer exist or are still in orbit, but inert and cold. Some, like Sputnik, are burned. Thousands of others, such as the Vanguard, will remain in orbit for decades or centuries, traveling around the planet like ballistic junk – a continuing danger to astronauts and their spacecraft.
On July 2, 2018, the CryoSat-2 satellite was orbiting just over 700 kilometers above the Earth’s surface, as it had been doing for years. But that day, the mission controllers of the European Space Agency realized they had a problem: a space debris of unknown origin, but whose orbit had previously been tracked by radar, was heading uncontrollably towards the $ 162 million satellite, in orbit since 2010 to keep an eye on the extent of the polar ice caps.
As the engineers followed the path of both objects, the chances of a collision increased until the danger threshold was exceeded, thereby forcing the controllers to make a quick decision.
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Credits: Ron Miller
Credits: Mark A. Garlick / MarkGarlick.com
Credits: Nasa/Shutterstock/Storyblocks/Elon Musk/SpaceX/ESA/ESO
Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/JSC
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