Solutions for space debris
After reading the space debris report in the April issue (“Hope for solving space debris”), I’d like to offer my own experiences studying this tough problem. In the ’60s at Rockwell International, I worked on a NASA contract studying what to do with orbital debris and dead satellites. We looked at all sorts of ideas and didn’t find any that would work, technically and economically.
Later, in the mid-’70s, Krafft Ehricke, Tom Logsdon and myself (consulting with many others) worked on another contract, “Space Industrialization; Industries in Space to Benefit Mankind.” This time, we went a different way: “space industrial parks,” like those on Earth, whereby someone would rent a “pad” and pay rent for location, services and utilities. Low-Earth orbit facilities would have human attendants; geosynchronous facilities would have “telecommuted astronauts” hardened against radiation. If a customer did not pay the rent, the park management would carefully de-orbit the machinery and rent the pad to someone else.
Of course, some space endeavors would not fit this model, but this philosophy would greatly reduce the number of things flying around. I am indeed fearful that we may mess up orbital space and deny ourselves the many benefits it offers!
Charles (Chuck) Gould
AIAA Associate Fellow
Las Vegas, Nevada