The Space Age has left the Earth's orbit littered with debris that can endanger the life of astronauts and damage satellites. Now a researcher at the Italian Space Agency has proposed a series of automated 'sweepers' to start cleaning up.
Reportagem de Jason Palmer.
After a half century of successes in space, low-Earth orbit has become a very messy place.
More than 17,000 pieces of space junk bigger than a hand's breadth are floating around up there; the largest of them weighs nearly ten tonnes.
The debris poses a growing risk to communication satellites and occasionally manned space missions. As time goes on catastrophic collisions become more likely, which would create even more debris.
Marco Castronuovo has a simple plan to solve the problem, starting with the largest, heaviest threats. He's proposed sending up a robotic mission that will skip between chunks of junk, affixing a little rocket to each one that will drive them out of orbit. The debris would then burn up harmlessly in the atmosphere over an ocean.
Each orbital housekeeper could clean up five objects a year, and would be sent on a seven-year mission.
It's a slow but straightforward solution to a problem that could otherwise leave low-Earth orbit completely unusable.
Jason Palmer, BBC
messy (desarrumado, bagunçado) untidy.
space junk (Lixo espacial. Fragmentos de foguetes e espaçonaves usados e outros detritos, que circulam a Terra) fragments of space travel leftovers that encircle the Earth.
a hand's breath (distância do dedo polegar ao dedo mindinho de uma mão aberta, um palmo) the width from thumb to little finger of a hand spread open.
manned space missions (missões tripuladas, veículos espaciais com astronautas a bordo) spaceships with astronauts on board.
threats (ameaças, objetos que podem causar uma colisão) items that could cause a collision.
skip (mover-se entre os objetos) move between the objects.
harmlessly (sem causar dano) not causing any damage.
orbital housekeeper (dispositivo que circula a Terra e "limpa" a área) device that circles the Earth and 'cleans' the area.
straightforward solution (solução simples e direta para o problema) uncomplicated answer to the problem.
unusable (inutilizável, que não pode ser usada) unfit to use.