Imagine waking up to a machine burning in your backyard, still smoking and sizzling after yelling at Earth from space. This is an extremely unlikely scenario, but it remains true that space trash does happen. Of all the scientific instruments we throw into the stratosphere, some of them, on occasion, drop back where they came from, only to cause heckling and confusion.
It’s much more likely if you live near a launch site, like Cape Canaveral, Florida, but NASA recently sounded the alarm bells about 6,000 tonnes of space debris in low orbit fouling more and more territories miles above the Earth. So if you find yourself in the seemingly unlikely situation of handling space debris landing where you live – or worse, damaging your home – how do you deal with that?
Does a missing satellite become a cosmological memory? Are there any legal protections granted? Here’s how you might approach dealing with space waste if it ever gets to your door.
Who is responsible for srhythm junk?
It may seem that all of the wandering machines orbiting the Earth have been forgotten, but there is actually some degree of liability for damage caused by space debris. Two legislative texts both recognized by the United Nations – the 1967 Outer Space Treaty and the 1972 Liability Convention—Both stipulate that governments take financial responsibility for damage caused by space debris, even if a private company has launched the unit in question.
It is a problem that sounds simple, although it gets trickier when it comes to practice. For example, if a piece of a NASA satellite were to enter your home, the space agency would foot the bill. But as Timiebi Aganaba, professor of space and society at Arizona State University recently wrote for The Conversation, it becomes a bit of a bureaucratic mess when multiple governments are involved.
Basically, if a piece of space junk from China landed on your house, your own country’s government would submit a diplomatic claim and then pay you – if it chose to make the claim at all.
This kind of event is extremely rare. There has only been one time that the Liability Convention has been used, Aganaba notes, when a “Soviet Cosmos 954 satellite fell in an arid region of the Northwest Territories of Canada” in 1978. And while the Canadian government ultimately demanded $ 6 million in compensation for cleaning up radioactive material spilled from the craft’s nuclear reactor, the Soviets only paid $ 3 million.
What should you do with space debris?
For the general public – who are all this problem is unlikely to be resolved – the natural remedy is to contact NASA, which is traditionally more than happy to foot the bill for any damage caused by its spacecraft. The 1972 Liability Convention states that the United States is “absolutely obligated to pay compensation for damage caused by its space object on the Earth’s surface or to aircraft in flight,” said Beth Dickey, head of aircraft operations. NASA public affairs. Science Live in 2011.
While this route seems straightforward enough – especially if you have compelling evidence of wayward space debris destroying your property – it’s less clear how authorities plan to deal with the bottleneck of garbage currently accumulating in space. .
A recent article from University of Colorado proposes a policy proposal, suggesting that an “orbital usage charge” of $ 235,000 per satellite could deter operators from adding to logic blocking in low orbit. While such a proposal may be more appealing than the technological solutions currently used to store space waste, it’s unclear how it would play out (no government can claim ownership of space, for example).
In the meantime, as space junk continues to pile up, it’s good to know how to deal with it. in the unlikely event that it lands at your doorstep.