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Just like human activity has resulted in pollution on Earth, it’s resulted in the pollution of the space around Earth, leaving large volumes of space debris in orbit—debris ranging in size from a few millimeters to dead satellites weighing thousands of pounds. While even the smallest sizes of debris pose the threat of colliding with active satellites and causing damage—indeed, a piece of debris measuring just 0.7 mm recently caused a European spacecraft to lose power—the larger items of debris pose the additional threat of what’s called the Kessler effect, which occurs when the collision of objects in space results in a chain reaction that can eventually render an orbit nonoperational.

Head of the European Space Agency (ESA) Clean Space Office, Luisa Innocenti, joins the podcast to discuss all the details of the problem with space pollution, catastrophic collisions, preventative measures that are currently being taken in order to avoid collisions, and two possible ways to clean up the orbits we so heavily rely upon one that involves a net, and one that involves the use of a robotic arm moving in synchronicity with space debris.

Press play for the full conversation on these important topics and visit https://www.esa.int/ESA for more information on the ESA’s current projects.

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