Early this year, after a half-century of growth, the federal list of detectable objects (four inches wide or larger) reached 10,000, including dead satellites, spent rocket stages, a camera, a hand tool and junkyards of whirling debris left over from chance explosions and destructive tests.
Now, experts say, China’s test on Jan. 11 of an antisatellite rocket that shattered an old satellite into hundreds of large fragments means the chain reaction will most likely start sooner. If their predictions are right, the cascade could put billions of dollars’ worth of advanced satellites at risk and eventually threaten to limit humanity’s reach for the stars.
"We've already established that idiocy is self-correcting. We're just haggling over the timetable."
My favorite part of the article:
Geoffrey E. Forden, an arms expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who is analyzing the Chinese satellite debris, said China perhaps failed to realize the magnitude of the test’s indirect hazards.
Dr. Forden suggested that Chinese engineers might have understood the risks but failed to communicate them. In China, he said, “the decision process is still so opaque that maybe they didn’t know who to talk to. Maybe you have a disconnect between the engineers and the people who think about policy."
As opposed to the Bush administration, where science and politics work hand in, uh, hand in...what do you call the back of a ventriloquist's dummy, anyway?
The bad news, [Nicholas L.] Johnson [chief scientist for orbital debris at NASA] said in his paper, is that “for the near term, no single remediation technique appears to be both technically feasible and economically viable.”
Don't you just hate how all these scientists are "glass half empty" types?