Kessler syndrome: how does the accumulation of space junk affect us?

The space race is still a very topical issue for many countries. The United States, Russia, India and China, for example, are some of the nations that have invested heavily in being increasingly present in extraterrestrial operations. The goal is not only to be able to explore new places in space, but also to establish military control.

From around the world, one common problem has worried all these great powers: the Kessler syndrome. And what is this? According to the Institute of Astronomy of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the amount of space debris could reach colossal amounts in the coming years, which would create a big problem for humanity. Understand more about this subject in the following paragraphs!

Garbage domino effect in space

(Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The Kessler syndrome theory was developed in the 1970s by Donald J. Kessler, a NASA consultant. According to the researcher, the volume of space debris in low Earth orbit would become so high that objects such as satellites would begin to collide with the debris, creating a “domino effect” capable of producing even more debris.

As the number of satellites in orbit increases, many more decommissioned satellites accumulate. This greatly increases the risk of collisions between space junks. Meanwhile, key pieces of human space technology currently operate in the same low orbit – less than 2,000 km from our planet – as the International Space Station (ISS) and several satellites very important to our daily lives Zoe .

If the accumulation of garbage reaches dimensions that scientists have not seen before, this event could have significant consequences. Examples of this would be the disruption of space flights, the disruption of global communications, or even the weakening of the military intelligence of some of the largest nations on our planet.

Risks for the future

(Source: Wikimedia Commons)(Source: Wikimedia Commons)

A major problem with Kessler Syndrome is that it sees human greed for power as an aggravating factor for the future of our species. For example, if countries found it interesting to shoot down and destroy satellites to disrupt enemy operations, that debris would soon be able to destroy the International Space Station.

For months, Roscosmos, which is the Russian Federation’s state-owned company in charge of spaceflight, has been warning about this danger. In late 2022, director Dmitry Rogozin even said that the test conducted by India – known as Mission Shakti – increased the chances of space debris hitting the ISS by 5%.

At that time, the Indian government was planning to destroy a satellite that was 300 km from Earth as it was inactive. The move was also heavily criticized by NASA and sparked a very intense global debate on space policy. As a next step, Roscosmos plans to bring the space forces together to consider a permanent ban on anti-satellite weapons tests, avoiding exacerbating the current situation.

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