The Possible Death of the Space Age

John Niemeyer, Columnist

The Space Age is the era of humanity where we stop looking towards our planet’s uncharted lands. We no longer look for what new oceans to explore, or what mountains need to be climbed. Instead, humanity has now started looking towards the stars. Instead of what unknown lands shall be discovered, it is now what uncharted planets we have not explored, and what strange new worlds we shall discover and conquer. With these new advancements in technology that now bring us to the cold empty reaches of space, we as humans may be trapped by our own hubris, and debris.

According to NASA, orbital debris may trap us on our planet. Orbital debris is made of objects such as broken rockets and satellites. “More than 500,000 pieces of debris, or “space junk,” are tracked as they orbit the Earth. They all travel at speeds up to 17,500 mph, fast enough for a relatively small piece of orbital debris to damage a satellite or a spacecraft,” says Mark Garcia, a writer for NASA. What this means is that if just one of those small pieces of debris hits a spacecraft, it could destroy a whole satellite, creating even more debris. If that cycle continues, we may lose every satellite we launch, and our way off this planet along with them.

But there is a small silver lining. Although there is a lot of junk flying through the atmosphere, there are special systems in place to track space debris and make the proper maneuvers to avoid it. There are also rockets being made by SpaceX now which have stages that land themselves. Maybe in the future we will make devices that can get rid of space debris. So if humanity wants to keep trying for the stars, we need to watch our steps closely and carefully, or we might just be stuck on this earth for a cosmically long time.