Mending the 'Space Fence'
Raytheon animation image of satellite collision
October 25th, 2012
06:00 AM ET

Mending the 'Space Fence'

By Mike Mount, CNN Senior National Security Producer

The Air Force wants to rebuild a “fence” around Earth to keep the riff-raff out.

Sounds like a Hollywood script to counter aliens or asteroids but it's a real program the military wants to update at an estimated cost of $3.5 billion.

Just don't expect any space cowboys digging post holes and wrangling barbed wire in orbit.

The Space Fence program is a series of radar signals managed by the Air Force since the early 1960's that has been tracking an ever-growing pile of rocket and satellite parts and other man-made fragments that zoom around Earth’s vicinity at thousands of miles per hour.

The military tracks about 20,000 pieces of so-called “space junk” but the actual size of the problem is ten times larger than that. Pieces that need tracking are as small as a softball to as large as a bus.

Regardless of size, the debris is a danger to manned space flight, such as the International Space Station, and unmanned operations, like the hundreds of satellites circling the planet at any one time.

Those satellites bring in television, run GPS and carry cell service, so the everyday and commercial stakes of managing the problem are high. The military also operates communications and other satellites.

The Air Force alerts NASA and private satellite companies about any “space junk” threatening to collide with one of their spacecraft.

"As every collision creates more and more objects, the problem only gets worse over time, it won't get better over time," says Scott Spence, director of Raytheon's Space Fence Program.

Like an old ranch fence, the Air Force Space Fence is worn out and needs to be “restrung” before something slips through.

Defense contractors Raytheon and Lockheed Martin are competing for a $3.5 billion contract to come up with an improved system that can identify more and smaller pieces. An announcement on a new contract is expected at year’s end.

"The fence will have greater sensitivity, allowing it to detect, track and measure and object the size of a softball orbiting more than 1,200 miles in space," according to an Air Force information sheet about what it expects.

Improved capabilities will also allow the military to receive evidence of satellite break-ups, collisions and unexpected satellite maneuvers, the Air Force said.

The Air Force said it plans on putting up to two radar systems.  At least one will be located in the Marshall Islands in the South Pacific and the new system will be integrated with the existing system to better track debris.

The Air Force expects construction to begin at the end of 2013 and have a completed system up and running in 2017.

But what about the overall problem of what to do with the debris? It seems as if the technology is not there yet.

"Space has a lot of challenges. The physics of overcoming how much space you want to cover if you want to clean up the debris around the Earth is a daunting one," Spence said.

"If you can prevent a collision from occurring by having better fidelity of what's up there and you can prevent 4,000 objects from being created from a collision when a satellite collides, that's more cost effective to do than trying to clean up the 4,000 objects after the fact," he added.

Like any good fence, Space Fence makes for good neighbors if you can keep track of them.

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  18. RangerDOS

    Old news, ho-hum. Space junk has been tracked for many decades. A lot of it will burn in all by its self in a few years, and yes it's a danger, but bird strikes on airplanes cause more problem by many orders of magnitude. Why do I know? I've worked in the industry for years.

    October 29, 2012 at 12:25 am | Reply
  19. cpc65

    You don't need lasers or guided missiles to take out military and communications satellites. It is believed that some countries have rockets that are nothing more than giant orbital denial pipe bombs. They send them up into orbit and explode them, then the debris clouds orbit the Earth like a big shotgun blast taking out anything in it's path. This is why I get concerned that the military of the US, and other western powers, rely too much on satellites these days. Some second or third rate power could take them out to help level the playing field.

    October 28, 2012 at 4:14 pm | Reply
  20. SpaceJunkCatastrophe

    For some reason, I'm thinking space junk will eventually become a big drive behind pursuing more sophisticated spacecraft to collect it. Since it directly relates to protecting the needs of both private business and government interests, it only makes sense as the problem worsens. The upgrade to the radar system is at least a step in the right direction.

    October 28, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Reply
  21. rad666

    Tack on a usage fee to every consumer unit that would use GPS.

    October 27, 2012 at 11:22 pm | Reply
  22. AndromedaCrossing

    On the contrary, all of this debris should be collected and jettisoned into the sun.

    October 27, 2012 at 8:29 pm | Reply
  23. Charlie McGuiness

    What would Brian Boitano do?

    October 27, 2012 at 5:10 pm | Reply
  24. average joe

    There are approximately 3000 satellites orbiting the Earth at any given time.If one is broken up it may cause a domino effect ending manned space flight for hundreds of years.

    October 27, 2012 at 3:04 pm | Reply
  25. mmi16

    Instead of a 'Space Fence'; we really need a 'Space Cleaner' to clean up all the junk and get it to self destruct in the atmosphere.

    October 27, 2012 at 1:39 am | Reply
    • Paul

      Self destruct? Into what? So instead of one large object to track you want to turn it into many more smaller objects that would be harder to track. Brilliant.

      October 27, 2012 at 4:13 pm | Reply
  26. a slozomby

    building a fence wont keep the aliens out.

    October 27, 2012 at 1:38 am | Reply
  27. rad666

    Why does America have to pay for it?

    October 26, 2012 at 11:49 pm | Reply
    • Thouston

      We are paying for it because this program will actually be about tracking "unexpected satellite maneuvers"

      October 27, 2012 at 6:14 am | Reply
    • Erik

      America caused it. It's us who landed on the moon and built half the satellites. It's us who decided to have the world's largest military. Sorry, but if you start the fight you have to pay for the damage.

      October 28, 2012 at 9:26 am | Reply
      • Jim

        Actually, China caused a mess when they blew up an aged weather bird back in Jan 2007.

        Instead of leaving the one sat alone to eventually fall and burn, they broke up one thing and created many smaller projectiles – exponentially increasing the problem...

        October 30, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
  28. sam

    Tony Stark could fix this problem. In a cave. With a box of scraps.

    October 26, 2012 at 3:10 pm | Reply
  29. palintwit

    Physicists at the prestigous Sarah Palin Galactic Observatory / Bait Shop have submitted a proposal to the Air Force which involves digging a moat in space filled with water which they claim will keep the space junk from getting too close to the earth.

    October 26, 2012 at 12:42 pm | Reply
    • fred

      That is funny thanks.

      October 26, 2012 at 9:30 pm | Reply
    • Charlie

      I literally loled

      October 27, 2012 at 10:54 am | Reply
    • Ruffknuckles

      That was my idea! Plain said it was hers? I'm getting really sick of her taking credit from me.

      October 28, 2012 at 3:29 pm | Reply
      • jtsk8rats

        No, it was my idea! Everyone wants to take credit for everything that I invent or do!!


        Al Gore

        November 19, 2013 at 8:56 am |
  30. LittleDog

    Launch a satellite into high equitorial orbit, that accelerates and shoots a coherent stream of charged particles with mass, maybe protons. Think cyclotron in a satellite. Aim the stream so that it strikes undesirable orbiting objects opposite the direction that they're moving, to form a massed particle "headwind". Over time, this will introduce drag, slow the targets down, and cause their orbits to drop. If you aim it right, the stream will also miss the earth. Since it has mass, the ion beam will produce force against the transmitting satellite, so it will need propulsion to stay in the same orbit.

    Now all you have to do is convince the other governments that your orbiting ion cannon is not actually a weapon...

    October 26, 2012 at 12:19 pm | Reply
    • Joe Rioux

      This is literally the dumbest thing I have read in a really long time. I'm a physicist. What you have described will not work.

      October 27, 2012 at 12:57 am | Reply
      • ngc1300

        Nonsense, Joe. It'll work quite well in his comic book universe.

        October 27, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
      • Ruffknuckles

        Oh but it would work. I'm testing a beta version of this exact thing in my head right now. It's orbiting my brain and shooting down "brain junk" which then falls out my nose. Only problems I've had are when I'm sick and the "brain junk" gets caught up in snot.

        October 28, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
  31. Greg R. Fishbone

    I've always wondered whether the Moon would tend to pull space debris into resonant orbits. Shouldn't there be thick waves of space junk circling around the Earth similar to how we have moon-influenced high and low tides of water on the surface?

    October 26, 2012 at 10:11 am | Reply
    • Spaceman

      I've often thought about that, too. But then I remembered to stop thinking about that, move out of my parents' basement, and get a girlfriend.

      October 26, 2012 at 11:59 am | Reply
      • Spaceman

        Sorry – just being a smart ass. Don't see why the moon wouldn't pull on debris circling the earth....

        October 26, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
  32. RQ

    3.5 Billion for our bloated military contractors to clean up space junk while global warming is gonna kill us off? Who gives a crap about space? How about cleaning up in our own back yard first.

    October 26, 2012 at 1:12 am | Reply
    • BabaORileyUSA

      RQ –

      You couldn't be more off base! The country has billions of dollars invested in space; from collection of weather data, communications, and GPS. These space-based systems, in turn, ensure hundreds of billions of dollars in earth-based business. So, while you're 'down here', thinking of space as something 'up there', everything you depend on down here depends upon how well we understand what's going on up there! (and the money isn't being spent to clean up the debris, just to keep track of it).

      October 26, 2012 at 9:56 am | Reply
    • JeramieH

      A lot of what we know about global warming has come from satellite data.

      October 26, 2012 at 10:27 am | Reply
      • jtsk8rats

        and Al Gore too!!

        November 19, 2013 at 9:00 am |
  33. Bubble Bubble

    Never try to light a fart in space. That's how black holes are formed.

    October 25, 2012 at 6:34 pm | Reply
    • Ryan


      October 27, 2012 at 11:52 am | Reply
  34. Ryan

    Maybe we need to develop and launch a satellite armed with a high-powered particle beam or laser that's accurate enough to target and destroy the larger peices of space junk such as old satellites and spent stages from all the various multi-stage launch vehicles used over the years granted it would need a fairly large power supply and i'm sure we can solve the issue with few years of solid,steady research.

    October 25, 2012 at 6:09 pm | Reply
    • BabaORileyUSA

      Big pieces of debris can only be broken into many more smaller pieces, which are many times harder to keep track of. Sorry, but your thought goes into the pile of VERY bad ideas....


      October 26, 2012 at 9:58 am | Reply
  35. Ryan Lee

    Space; the garbage pit of humanity. What's the first thing someone is going to see before visiting us? Our garbage!
    Martha Stewart is not going to be happy!

    October 25, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Reply
    • ic32teeth

      Hey Ryan you want to be a millionare? Be the first to launch a garbage collection space vehicle. Waste Management in space!!!

      October 25, 2012 at 3:47 pm | Reply
  36. Nana Bowman

    Whose idea is it? Please first help Americans fencing against illiteracy, hunger, poverty, diseases and unemployment. One of my nephews is studying environment engineering at Tuft University, so no outsourcing is allowed. Made in U. S. A.

    October 25, 2012 at 2:33 pm | Reply
  37. Nana Bowman

    Whose idea it is? Please first help Americans fencing against illiteracy, hunger, poverty, diseases and unemployment. Made is U. S. A.

    October 25, 2012 at 2:25 pm | Reply
  38. DC

    In two years can't the Navy shoot all that stuff with their laser? Poof...problem solved.

    October 25, 2012 at 2:25 pm | Reply

    Just have to slow it down, And it'll take care of itself, there are a number of cost effective solutions to deal with this problem in the long term. I guess watching something that you don't want to deal with is the solution, kind of like everything else.

    October 25, 2012 at 2:25 pm | Reply
  40. JustSayin'

    2 words: American Pickers

    October 25, 2012 at 2:21 pm | Reply
  41. M.E.

    Considering one new submarine costs 2 billion and we have 21 of those on order, I dare say our bloated military has the money. If the don't, just cancel a couple of the unnecessary sub orders!

    October 25, 2012 at 2:21 pm | Reply
  42. ah

    What a bunch of fluff, face it once ships ruled the battle field, then planes, the future on military power is space! They just want to be able to track what everybody else is doing up there.

    October 25, 2012 at 2:08 pm | Reply
  43. Navet626

    This reminds me of the image in WALL-E where the earth is surrounded by a layer of trash. Here's a novel idea. Instead of tracking the trash let's clean it up!

    October 25, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Reply
    • macbry

      Read the second to last paragraph. It is cheaper and smarter to keep the debris from increasing than it is to clean it up after the fact.

      October 25, 2012 at 2:14 pm | Reply
    • Seriously?

      Do you understand how much space flight costs? And you think we can just go up there in our magic garbage picker rocketships and clean it up?

      Or maybe we'll shoot the trash with our lasers! Pew pew!

      October 25, 2012 at 2:17 pm | Reply
  44. Dan

    But that money could be used to fund another Green Energy Company that will be bankrupt in two years.

    October 25, 2012 at 1:58 pm | Reply
    • ah

      for the last 60 years they been promising energy independence, renewable energy is the only thing that will acheive that, because oil will eventually run out and we will be fighting with others for the last drop. Green energy only hirts Big oil, gas and coal. Though its more expensive to start it saves money in the long term. I perfar to invest in the future.

      October 25, 2012 at 2:05 pm | Reply
      • localhost

        I thought Jesus made more oil when we ran low.

        October 27, 2012 at 3:47 am |
    • Josh

      Hey, way to take one fact (devoid of any of the surrounding details) and make an unrelated snarky comment.
      Congrats of being part of the problem in this country.

      October 25, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Reply
      • ah

        Monkey see monkey do

        October 25, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
    • jtsk8rats

      ahh yes!!! we could fix if we get more money...


      Solardyne board of directors

      November 19, 2013 at 9:05 am | Reply
  45. DavidMpls

    I hope they are charging private satellite companies that benefit from this defense, and not just fund it via the federal budget...

    October 25, 2012 at 1:54 pm | Reply
    • Dan


      I hope they are charging the public that benefits from the satellites in orbit. Yep.

      October 25, 2012 at 1:59 pm | Reply
    • trienna

      Nope...the gov does not even charge for the use of GPS satellites and the AF has to maintain them.

      October 25, 2012 at 4:38 pm | Reply
    • jtsk8rats

      nope, no charge! Consider it a space bailout!


      Barack Obama

      November 19, 2013 at 9:06 am | Reply
  46. m0rtis.0000

    Put more up there – it can serve 3 purposes:
    • Replace the deteriorating Ozone layer
    • Protect us from asteroids
    • Protect us from aliens

    Guess in the last 50 years we haven't learned ANYTHING about cleaning up after ourselves, on the planet or elsewhere. What, are we 7 year olds?

    October 25, 2012 at 1:46 pm | Reply
  47. Chris

    Obama : "Romney wants to give the military money that they aren't even asking for"

    Uh, Mr.president? They're asking.

    October 25, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Reply
    • ah

      How do you know that this is not already in his military budget? Do some research before commenting please.

      October 25, 2012 at 2:00 pm | Reply
      • Rodeoguy

        Budget? There has not been a passed budget in the last 4 years. Thats a fact.

        October 25, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • Roy Rogers

      Yeah cause you know better than him right?

      October 25, 2012 at 2:05 pm | Reply
    • Do the math

      You realize that there is a HUGE difference between the $2 trillion Romney is talking about and the $3.5 billion mentioned in this article, right? Both are a ton of money, but Romney's talking about a number 570 times that amount.

      October 25, 2012 at 2:33 pm | Reply
  48. ScientistGirl

    Send up a giant magnet....duh.

    October 25, 2012 at 1:42 pm | Reply
    • Lber

      Haha! Love it.

      October 25, 2012 at 1:48 pm | Reply
    • Dan

      Your idea is not viable, most of the debris is not ferrous.

      October 25, 2012 at 1:56 pm | Reply
      • Lber

        Your sense of humor is not viable.

        October 25, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
      • nastynikki

        you have no sense of humor....

        October 25, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • thedoctor

      Hey, ScienceGirl. I suggest you take some science courses. (Or change your handle.) Step one: look up the definition of "non-ferrous."

      October 25, 2012 at 2:13 pm | Reply
      • Lber

        Type this into your Google search box "Define Sarcasm" or try "Define Joke"

        October 25, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
    • gman

      Isn't the earth a giant magnet already?

      October 25, 2012 at 2:16 pm | Reply
    • BabaORileyUSA

      That's almost half a complete thought! Unfortunately, magnets only attract ferrous materials (e.g. – iron and steel), and most of the material we're talking about is non-ferrous, so magnets would have absolutely no effect at all. Furthermore, on the pieces magnets DO affect, the collision between the debris and the magnet would produce even more debris, which is always smaller in size and exponentially harder to keep track of....


      October 26, 2012 at 10:06 am | Reply
  49. 1whoKnows

    The current project is way behind and they have asked for an additonal 2.5Billion in funding increasess this year. This project is well on track to be over 6 Billion. I will bet anyone a paycheck it's not completed for less than 10 Billion. By the way the us is fully funding it and it will not be located in the US. Just thought you might want to know.

    The problem with the "Garbage Truck" is not technical! It could be done with technology that we already have. The problem is political. If the US develops a "Space Garbage Truck" they could go up and retrieve trash, but they could also go up and retrieve active satilites from other nations or use it as a wepon to take down spy satilites. The US has signed treaties to prevent the clean-up of space, because of this. So, if you want to clean up space the first thing to do is call your congressmen and change the treaty. Sorry, for the depressing news, but it's the truth.

    October 25, 2012 at 1:30 pm | Reply
    • EvolveNow

      The space shuttle could have been used to retrieve anyone's satellites, in use or not, so this treaty argument does not hold up. Would we have gained any technological advantage by retieving anyone elses satellites? No, we would have gained nothing at all, thus it is not cost effective to begin clean up efforts. When we need the space in a certain orbit or need to retrieve our own technology before others do, it might be considered, but not before. The government is not too worried that something may fall into our back yards, that happens several times per year by the way. Mostly these objects that have been recaptured by Earth's gravitaional pull are just watched to see that they will hit in upopulated areas or an ocean, if they would not burn up before crashing to the ground. If they were big enough to not burn up before impact and would head for a populated area, then you MIGHT see an effort to nudge the debris into a more preferable decaying orbit, MAYBE...

      October 25, 2012 at 2:36 pm | Reply
      • soccerchick05

        Keep in mind too that the orbit that we put humans in is lower than where most LEO satellites reside. The Hubble had to be intentionally degrade its orbit a bit for the STS to capture it and repair. Again, orbital mechanics is much more restrictive than Star Wars or other SciFi movies portray.

        October 25, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
  50. gteim

    I read this article, like 6 years ago in Scientific American. Stay classy CNN.

    October 25, 2012 at 1:15 pm | Reply
  51. R2D2

    I'll pass on the clean up mission. Mikey will do it, call Discovery.

    October 25, 2012 at 1:08 pm | Reply
  52. 3billion

    So where is this $3 billion coming from ?

    October 25, 2012 at 12:57 pm | Reply
    • taxpayer

      From you and me

      October 25, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Reply
    • tet1953

      Where do you think? From you, of course. And no doubt a much lessor degree, me.

      October 25, 2012 at 1:24 pm | Reply
    • Bellezurdogg

      The same place that Mitt is getting the 2 trillion....

      October 25, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Reply
  53. AC27

    "she went from suck to blow!"

    October 25, 2012 at 12:50 pm | Reply
    • Mega Maid


      October 25, 2012 at 1:36 pm | Reply
  54. Joe Mama

    I think we should clean that stuff up! Also I think that we should not have any homeless people and there should be no hungry people. Also I think that we should cure disease and have World peace. There. I've done my part to make this a better World. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to buy some stuff I don't need using money I don't have.

    October 25, 2012 at 12:49 pm | Reply
    • Aaron

      It's not yet possible to catch something the size of a bus moving thousands of miles per hour.

      October 25, 2012 at 1:30 pm | Reply
      • Lber

        Yes it is. The space shuttles have 'caught' the Hubble Space Telescope 5 times to service and repair it.

        October 25, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
      • Thinker...

        Actually it is: we did it all the time with the shuttle. Thats how they built the ISS and did work on the Hubble and such. You just come up from 'behind' the object at a slightly higher velocity and then match and grab it. Develpoing a craft that could clean all the garbage up would cause a political ****storm globaly though. After all, if we can grap space junk and destroy it, we can grab expensive satelites and do the same.

        October 25, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
      • EvolveNow

        Pay more attention, Aaron, Lber is right! The U.S. Space Shuttles have caught up to and captured variious satellites in orbit as well as the Hubble Space Telescope. If I remember correctly at least one was even hauled into the cargo bay and strapped down so it would be more stable to work on. It was then released back into orbit by the space shuttle and declared fully functional by its owners/operators. Many satellites and the Hubble Space Telescope weigh thousands of pounds and all travel at extremly high speeds, but the science and art of catching them has long been perfected, becoming fairly routine.

        October 25, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
      • soccerchick05

        Yes, it is possible to capture but very dangerous and cost prohibitive. Dangerous because if the 'collection' method bumps or collides with the debris, you may have just created a new debris cloud that is now a space hazard.
        As for cost, we are not capable of maneuvering in space like you can on the ground, in the air, or in the water. Orbital mechanics are VERY restrictive and costly in fuel use. Launching one systems to "clean up" two or three pieces of debris isn't much of a gain because you have spent the money to design, equip, launch, and now have one big object where you may have had two or three small objects. No nation is going to invest in that one.

        October 25, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
  55. Peter

    There are solutions available today that have been discussed for decades. It costs so much to get that stuff up there and most of it is mineral rich. There's a great book out there "The Triangles Will" that weaves just such an enterprise into a pretty good story. We shouldn't let it burn up. It cost to much to get it there. Lets inventory it, build the capability to repurpose it as others said, and only ship up what we can't find.

    October 25, 2012 at 12:38 pm | Reply
    • david

      So you say recycle ... great idea but they don't do that down here . Look at all the empty buildings around . Instead of reusing them they build new buildings and let the others rot . Same will go with space .

      October 25, 2012 at 1:25 pm | Reply
  56. Patrick

    This topic is important and it is important to be aware of the possible consequences of space junk hitting working systems in space and other space junk. You can find more by searching for the terms "Kessler Syndrome" or "ablation cascade". These are the terms that apply to a potential result of a massive run-away fragmentation effect that could result from one collision starting a chain-reaction. As unlikely as it seems, several years ago two orbiting satellites actually collided. Thankfully, this did not result in an ablation cascade. In the future we may not be so lucky. I'm concerned (and I love the phrase 'ablation cascade').

    October 25, 2012 at 12:35 pm | Reply
  57. soccerchick05

    For those that keep saying 'someone should do something about this' be aware that this has been a high interest issue for all space faring nations for a long time. The UN has a forum for working this issue. You can read about their history here and it provides links to the UNOOSA site for details. Fortunately, (so far) collisions have been rare but considering debris can be as small as grains of sand (check out the windshied damage to STS-7 from a fleck of paint there is a heck of a lot to be worried about.
    Jason (above) is perfectly right though. To quote Douglas Adams "Space is big. Really, really big." and every object is flying at different speeds (up to 7000 miles per hour) on different orbital paths. The amount of planning necessary to do those satellite captures require precision planning and large amounts of fuel for every capture. You also risk the two objects bumping each other as they approach and creating more debris. With today's technology it just isn't practical or safe. We just aren't at Star Wars or Battlestar Galactica maneuvering capability yet so avoidance and debris mitigation is currently the only alternatives.
    Hopefully, a creative science student in school right now will come up with a solution before the next collision occurs.

    October 25, 2012 at 12:02 pm | Reply
  58. TheresABookForThat

    Sorry, but I cannot support the Space Fence idea.

    Instead, all the space junk needs to be eliminated. Most of it should be nudged into the atmosphere where it will burn up during re-entry. The small percentage of stuff that's too big for immediate re-entry should be gathered at the space station and either re-purposed or disassembled to the size that can be sent earthward to be destroyed on re-entry.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:59 am | Reply
    • Kat

      My thoughts exactly – REMOVE IT!

      October 25, 2012 at 12:05 pm | Reply
      • Marcello

        Holy crap! "REMOVE IT"...Kat, you're a genius, how did you come up with that? Maybe a backpack rocket could be strapped to your back and you can fly around space with baseball gloves catching 1200 miles per hour debris. And for the the other person you were supporting here, I guess there aren't books for that, dumb attempt to sound smart nickname.

        October 25, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
    • daveogilvy

      Oh, I want us to round up and/or collect 200,000 pieces of space junk traveling in orbit at upwards of 1200mph? Yeah....mmmmhmmmm....that's a great idea.

      October 25, 2012 at 12:08 pm | Reply
      • Kat

        Hmmm, well it's a good thing our past scientists and physicists weren't as closed minded as Marcello and daveogilvy. They most likely have had a way to rid our orbit of all the debris for quite sometime now, but the "space fence" is likely more lucrative to key players than just getting rid of what's up there. Look at the big picture's been going on for decades now with our enviroment, pharmaceutical companies, roadways, government, etc...

        October 25, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
      • cyclonus11

        I'd like to see a fleet of small-to medium-sized robotic satellites that can maneuver around via remote control and nudge objects back into the atmosphere. They can catch up to the fast-moving orbiting objects and adjust (rotate, spin, etc.) themselves so that they can successfully nudge them without damaging themselves. Smaller items can burn up, and larger items can be nudged strategically so that they fall into the ocean.

        October 25, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
      • Gary

        OMG, no you can't "turn" or "spin" or "push" a debris in space into the earth/ocean!!! think about it, when you push a car for example, where does the force comes from? it comes from your muscle right? but where do you push from? your feet! you plant your feet on the ground, and because of the friction of your shoes is so great, your feet won't move, so the car will move. now, imagine if you are wearing roller blade on your feet....when you push a car, do you think the car will move? NO! you will be rolled away! in the same way, when an object A exerts a force onto another object B, object A will experience the same force in opposite direction! (this is the 3rd Law of Motion by Newton.)
        now when you are in space, if you can push something equal weight as you into the earth, that means you yourself will be propelled away from earth. worse, if the object is 10x heavier than you, than you will be propelled away from earth at 10x the speed that object falling to earth. not much a solution huh when every space shuttle mission is a suicide mission to "push" one debris into earth?
        of course, you can use rocket, but to carry rocket to space to accomplish what i just described would need a specialized mission just for one debris. we are talking about a billion dollars and life risk and years of planning to remove one out of million of debris. not very smart huh?

        October 26, 2012 at 4:53 am |
    • John


      October 25, 2012 at 12:13 pm | Reply
      • xRedfoxx

        I propose flying around in an X-Wing Fighter with R2-D2 in the back plucking up the debris as we fly by......

        October 25, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
    • Chris R

      And how would you go about eliminating it? Keep in mind that space is huge and many of these objects are at very different orbital positions. Moving from one position in orbit to another takes a lot of energy. That means carrying a lot of reaction mass in order to change planes, maneuver to the object, and then eliminate it in someway that won't cause more damage. With our current technology and budget there is no feasible way to do this that doesn't fall squarely into the realm of science fiction. You can't string up a huge fence to capture them. You can't blast them into dust with lasers. You can't send up hundreds of robots to capture them. None of those ideas really work. So what is your idea?

      October 25, 2012 at 12:20 pm | Reply
    • Oscar Pitchfork

      Nudge it? How? With 20,000 tiny rockets? Grab it all with an indestructible net the size of North America? Think it thru, dude. Thousands of guys much smarter than yourself have been worrying about this problem since the 60's, and the fact is: there really ISN'T anything to do about it.

      October 25, 2012 at 12:42 pm | Reply
    • morgancarlson

      Get some kind of magnet to orbit, sucking up the small pieces into a larger one, of course making sure it is padded with something capable of absorbing the impacts.

      Or get some kind of gelatinous substance (that is like that at the negative temperatures in space) that is like a kid's playdoh, gak, or anything else sticky that becomes a giant hairball once it lands on the floor. After it gets big enough, just collect it in orbit or force it down to re-entry.

      Just put up a new one each time, and stay out of its way as it goes around.

      October 25, 2012 at 12:57 pm | Reply
    • Caribou100

      Seems like your proposals cannot be carried out without your knowing where all the pieces of junk are. So you should WANT a space fence.

      October 25, 2012 at 1:01 pm | Reply
      • EvolveNow

        Bingo! We have a winner for the big grand prize! (Good thinking.)

        October 25, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • Brad

      Physics says "hi"

      October 25, 2012 at 1:05 pm | Reply
  59. Marco

    One of the sites that track this space junk is located on Eglin AFB Reservation in Florida. See The equipment is mostly from the 1960's and uses vacuum tubes.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:49 am | Reply
    • Todd

      But vacuum tubes is exactly what you need to use if you want a long lasting, nuclear blast proof equipment, lol. Newbies.

      October 25, 2012 at 12:00 pm | Reply
      • Marco

        Parts and tubes are difficult to find for the AN/FPS-85 thus the replacement program in the article. Also not much of this site would be physically left in a nuclear war. Besides the EMP would render useless the IBM mainframes and associated equipment that process the data.

        October 25, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
  60. Sunflower

    sounds like we need a giant vaccuum cleaner!!!

    October 25, 2012 at 11:41 am | Reply
    • P.Y.

      MEGA MAID ??

      October 25, 2012 at 12:12 pm | Reply
      • Scott

        Spaceballs? 😉


        October 25, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
    • D_Coder

      Well, if you want clean vacuum, then yah, you need a vacuum cleaner.

      October 25, 2012 at 12:18 pm | Reply
    • Dyson

      Vacuum cleaner can't work in a vacuum.

      October 25, 2012 at 12:43 pm | Reply
      • gutterboy


        October 25, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
  61. Charlie

    China accounts for 40 percent of the space debris, followed by the United States, which produces 27.5 percent and Russia, with 25.5 percent, the study showed.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:41 am | Reply
    • AM

      That's easy to see why when the Chinese blow the crap out of a satellite for no good reason! Human beings aren't smart enough to be in space. We are building a fence alright. Much like a chicken coup. Only we are the feathered ones...

      October 25, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Reply
  62. Michael

    Reminds me of the TV series "Planetes", where people are tasked with de-orbiting this stuff for a living. It's a very cool series.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:35 am | Reply
  63. Joe Schmoe

    Cell phone communications do NOT use satellites.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:35 am | Reply
    • Bec

      Some of them do. Most don't.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:59 am | Reply
    • sicky

      What if it's a satellite phone?

      October 25, 2012 at 12:01 pm | Reply
  64. heloise8

    Reblogged this on The Trough.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:33 am | Reply
  65. Fred Daynes

    SPACE JUNK is really not junk at all if collected. I would collect it or use a net instead with space drones to do the cleanup and gathering. The problem with most satellites is that the gravitational pull of the earth pulls them into lower and lower orbits, until they burn up on the way to the ground. With a larger mass you retain that orbit for a longer period of time. So the so called space junk is Gold to the Space Miner of tomorrow. Its mass that has already had its trip paid for to get there. A new international space station could be built from it now instead. The space station could be initially created with throw away's from yester-years rocket and shuttle missions from around the world. Collecting it and retiring the systems in an eco friendly fashion is conducive to every nation and country on a global scale if you can just get them to stop blowing things up in every direction upon retirement. Just like Dubai creating islands from sand you could create a moon in the shape of a giant head. “Look at the size of that head, its like a Giant sputnik”...

    October 25, 2012 at 11:26 am | Reply
    • DB

      He would use a net and spacedrones! Oh well isn't that easy. Unfortunately these "spacedrones" haven't been invented yet, and I think you'd need a "net" about the size of Texas.

      October 25, 2012 at 1:43 pm | Reply
  66. Dan C

    I found this NASA site pretty cool. Gives a almost real time of what's up there overhead.
    Shuttle, um strike that one, ISS, and others can be seen where they are. Zoom in or out or put the pointer at a dot and the dot moves if it is an orbiting satellite. enjoy

    October 25, 2012 at 11:25 am | Reply
  67. Soican

    Let kids play asteroids for real and blow them up.

    Magnetize what you can and form an international junk space station.

    Sling shot them into the taliban sites and make diamonds and save money on drone costs.

    Leave junk there to scare away aliens.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:24 am | Reply
  68. Twist

    Nuclear scientists failed to design a way to dispose of nuclear waste. Geologists have sold their science out to the oil industry. NASA scientists have failed to dispose of their floating creations, and now the military needs to clean up after them? This world is insane.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:22 am | Reply
    • Elliot

      1. NASA is investing lots of money in ways to collect space debris and bring it down. Monitoring it is just as important.
      2. You can't use magnets, satellites aren't made of steel. You can't use adhesives because you can't press against something in orbit. Electroadhesion is possible though and is being developed.
      3. Yes, space debris will naturally de-orbit eventually, over the course of years.
      4. You can't blow it up, that creates more debris. Talk to the Chinese, who decided to double the amount of space debris when they tested their missile defense tech by blowing up one of their own satellites.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:39 am | Reply
    • Inonot

      Geologist "sell their science" to academia, environmental groups, the United States Geological Survey, Mining companies, Engineering firms, Construction firms, Earthquake/Volcano early warning... the list goes on and on. Its called "having a job" By that logic all engineers "sold their science" to weapon manufacturers.. or all biologist "sold their science" to stem cell research..

      October 25, 2012 at 11:41 am | Reply
  69. korrectionpromaster

    mending the space fence wat a joke

    October 25, 2012 at 11:22 am | Reply
  70. popeye

    The article talks about television satellites then says this system would monitor debris 1200 miles out. TV and many communications satellites are 22,000 miles out.
    Misleading to give the impression this would do anything to protect geosynchronous satellites. Maybe at launch time I guess.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:13 am | Reply
  71. Ron

    The United States Space program is a waste of taxpayer dollars, there is no intelligent life out there, there is nothing out there that would improve life on this planet. Spend the money on the homeless and poor in America, those results we can see.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:13 am | Reply
    • John

      So you'd rather give money to the dregs of society who will do absolutely nothing useful with it? I'd rather invest in science.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:46 am | Reply
    • Kory

      ron you have to be completely ignorant if you believe some form of life is not out there. There are trillions upon trillions of stars out there with Gas giants like Jupitar and Rocky planets like Our Earth orbitiing around them. Trust me the satistics are in favor of LIFE my friend. Our space program is probably one of the most important things we have as a nation. And to lead the world in that gives us a hell of an advantage. Just my opinion.

      October 25, 2012 at 12:00 pm | Reply
    • G

      If you use a microwave over, velcro, ball point pens, gps ,etc please return all those items because they were invented by NASA/miltary through the aerospace program.

      October 25, 2012 at 12:02 pm | Reply
      • NNN

        This is where you're wrong. Almost every single invention claimed by NASA and military has its origins in the industrial sector. It is the industrial sector that drives innovation. These claims made by NASA and DoD are so much propaganda to try to justify their outrageous budgets to the American public. These organizations are extremely inefficient and wasteful.

        October 25, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
    • WASP

      ron: the space program creates jobs, brings new discoveries in many fields of study.
      to me the main reason to maintain a space program is we live on one planet, thus it will take one global event like an asteroid or super volcano to impact all life on earth. humans wouldn't survive, we would have a distenct possiblity of going extinct. if we have colonies off world the chances of a species level extinction event is minimal. if we want to survive we need to achieve off world capabilities.

      October 25, 2012 at 12:07 pm | Reply
    • Scottlaw

      Damn Ron... it is hard to make a statement that is ignorant sounding when compared to others on these posts, but you have succeeded my friend. I am sure god wants your Dallas Cowboys to win on Sunday too.

      October 25, 2012 at 12:56 pm | Reply
    • soccerchick05

      So you are promoting no satellite communications, navigation, satellite movie/television, weather observaion, solar studies, or interplanetary exploration? Sorry, your world sounds dangerous and medieval. Pass.

      October 25, 2012 at 3:47 pm | Reply
  72. lynnmarie97

    Still no front page story about the Benghazi emails.....Still no front page story about the admin incompetence which led to 4 deaths in Benghazi, still no front page story about my girl Hillary throwing herself under the bus for the Arrogance in Chief. CNN still covering for the kool-aid drinking fools. I am glad I found the antidote for the kool aid....Romney. No more voting for Hope, Change and Forward. I am woman I can think for myself. I care not about the petty things that media thinks women care about. I have a brain.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:12 am | Reply
    • Wow.

      Good luck with that. You may have a brain, but you seem to have forgotten about your uterus, or those of your daughters, sisters, and every other woman in this country.
      And if you DO have a brain, how about using it to read the HUNDREDS AND HUNDREDS of stories out there on the Libya fiasco? Or, perhaps, apply your eyeballs to the crap on Fox. No brains needed over there.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:20 am | Reply
    • Daremonai

      What are you talking about? I see at least 3 headlines for those stories on CNN's front page right now, and two of them have been up since yesterday.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:21 am | Reply
    • Youreanidiot

      You're a women and you're voting for Romney? CNN is covering up for Obama?... You're honestly and idiot. Unitelligent, brainwashed freak.

      Dont think so?

      Romney is running an AD endorsing a candidate for Senate who said during a debate that pregnancy through rape is Gods plan. And even after he said that he is still endorsing him.

      Any women who votes Romney is an idiot.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:30 am | Reply
      • xRedfoxx

        God controls everything, whether you accept it or not. Sometimes speaking the truth is not popular.

        October 25, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
      • tulio

        If God controls everything, then he must have been the one that guided the planes into the twin towers on 9-11. Quite a god you got there buddy.

        October 25, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • Josh

      nice talking point..seems you are concerned with more negativity and mudslinging than compassion for the human lives that were lost, Obama showed compassion when he addressed benghazi in the second debate and properly put romney in his rightful place by trying to politicize the event. No matter who is in office, lives will be lost and we must work together to prevent and respond to such events.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:35 am | Reply
    • Lber

      Why did you click on this article??

      October 25, 2012 at 2:02 pm | Reply
    • AM

      Pretty sure you are nothing but a spewing web bot funded by one of the Repub PAC's your politician masters love so much as they line their pockets... Cause you sure didn't use much of your brain when you just jumped into a blog about space junk to spew that BS... And here, Dummy. Front page you idiot...

      October 25, 2012 at 2:24 pm | Reply
    • EvolveNow

      Wow, I hope you are not planning on a Romney-lead future where you, your sister, your daughter or your granddaughter could get an abortion if you needed it without having to prove before hand that you might just die without it. Imagine, not having to worry again for generations, at least, if the abortion clinic will be allowed to give safe abortions and if the street corner "Dr." with a rusty coat hanger will be out of a job... USE THAT BRAIN AND THINK ABOUT IT!

      October 25, 2012 at 3:07 pm | Reply
  73. us_1776

    We need a Roomba in Space mission.


    October 25, 2012 at 11:11 am | Reply
    • RealityChk

      LOL – Good one!

      October 25, 2012 at 11:29 am | Reply
  74. Knucklehead

    Reduce, reuse, recycle...

    October 25, 2012 at 11:09 am | Reply
  75. Buck

    It's a good thing that the International Fake Station is actually 'stationed' at the Baikonur Cosmodrome inside their hangar. Otherwise, I'd be a bad day if even a tiny piece of space junk were to crash into the Fake Station causing it to de-orbit and burn-up in the atmosphere at 17,500 mph like a meteor. I that were to happen, NASA and the Russians may have to opt for 100% CG in order to continue to 'pull off' their demonstrations....

    October 25, 2012 at 11:06 am | Reply
    • us_1776

      You tinfoil hat needs an adjustment.

      Have you ever been to a real rocket launch?

      Those things are not fake !!


      October 25, 2012 at 11:10 am | Reply
      • Dirty Sanchez

        Those launches are nothing more than a collective hallucination I believe. Just kidding. I think Buck might be using the cheapo Wal-Mart tin foil instead of the heavy-duty Reynolds tin foil that is truly required to protect his noggin from those evil doers who want to control his mind.

        October 25, 2012 at 11:18 am |
      • Buck

        Hey, there's a great piece of 'tin foil' on display at the Smithsonian Air and Fake Museum in DC. I think they used a little paper-mache around the edges too....

        Of course the rockets are real as well as the remote controlled satellites they place in orbit (yes, you can see the ISS satellite from Earth....). The folks 'on board' said rockets are inside the hangar and/or performing parabolic maneuvers, whilst being filmed of course....

        How is your cap fitting now?

        October 25, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
    • Scones

      No matter how far we advance, there will always be people like you who claim the world is flat.
      If you want proof the space station is in orbit look out your damn window at night. If you ever see an especially bright satellite, that's the space station.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:17 am | Reply
      • Buck

        See above..... every astro-physicist knows about hypersonic fry-up, hence astro-actors are highly paid....

        October 25, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
    • Jim

      Buck, You do realize we can see the ISS from the ground here on earth? Go buy a telescope. I don't know how people like you cheat death and survived childhood.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:20 am | Reply
      • Buck

        See above.... no one cheats death, we all die and turn back into dust....

        October 25, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
    • Thinker...

      Uh you do realize that the ISS is visible from Earth right? And I have no idea why you think it is at Baikonur. I gotta say, I have never heard anyone claim the ISS is a hoax before. Considering I have seen it pass overhead (it is actually visible at night if you know when and where it will be. It looks like a bright star moving quickly across the sky) I'm gonna say it is a real thing...

      October 25, 2012 at 11:30 am | Reply
      • Buck

        Yeeees, I too have seen their remote controlled 'ISS' satellite above. Ever heard or PARD?

        Check this article out....

        October 25, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
      • Thinker...

        I salute you! Well played sir!

        October 25, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
    • Lber

      Buck, I LOVE people like you! I'd love to know whether or not you think we've ever sent anything to the Moon (human or machine).

      October 25, 2012 at 2:07 pm | Reply
  76. spectator

    Great, so we can have more advanced systems to watch debris hit things since we don't have a way to actually stop it. Seems to be more of a system for clarifying who is to blame if space junk should slam into anything important. Maybe spend some more time/money on how to gather and reuse or destroy the debris?

    October 25, 2012 at 10:57 am | Reply
    • rob

      Well yes, except many americans think putting money in space is already a waste. But goodness forbid a piece of metal destroyed one of the satellites that carry their tv programing, cutting short Honey Boo Boos latest episode.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:07 am | Reply
      • Mojo


        October 25, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
      • EvolveNow

        Oh, Please let that damaged satellite then hit the producer/creator of that horrid excuse for entertainment!

        October 25, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • FredInIT

      NASA is currently working on this.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:33 am | Reply
  77. us_1776

    How about we spent that money on missions that go around and collect all that space debris and de-orbit the stuff?

    That's what we should be doing.


    October 25, 2012 at 10:55 am | Reply
    • The Thinker


      October 25, 2012 at 11:05 am | Reply
    • FredInIT

      It is obvious do you don't understand the difficulty of this issue. You are free to climb back in your management hole in the wall at any time.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:35 am | Reply
  78. security

    funny 2 usa and 1 australian soldier got killed to day ha ha ha great news.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:47 am | Reply
    • CA

      Mind posting your address so I can come show you how funny that really is?

      October 25, 2012 at 10:56 am | Reply
      • saeed

        ha ha ha 1 italian soldier also got gunned down.

        October 25, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
      • saeed

        ha ha ha 2 british soldier got also gunned down.

        October 26, 2012 at 1:11 am |
    • Obambam

      Smile for the drone camera D*ckhead

      October 26, 2012 at 11:10 am | Reply
  79. Lee Oates

    Seems like no matter where the Naked Ape goes, he trashes the neighbourhood.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:45 am | Reply
  80. Peter

    We need an EOSERV (Earth-Orbit-Satellite-Eating-Recovery-Vehicle).
    It goes into low earth orbit first. It deploys the mile-wide electromagnetic net. It scoops up junk ... THEN, it moves up 1 mile in orbit. Keeps going ... Then, eventually, it just fires up some rockets and dumps the stuff on some land fill on the moon ... Then, future recycling on the moon reuses some of the non-nuclear powered stuff.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:43 am | Reply
    • kyle

      I don't really think dumping our trash on the moon to deal with later is an ideal solution, probably better to somehow transport it back here where we have established recycling facilities.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:57 am | Reply
      • Pete

        Good idea, but orbital mechanics suggests we start it out high and move it inward. Eventually it will have collected everything and will burn up in the atmosphere itself, and hopefully we can guide reentry to land in the deep pacific. I'd venture it will cost a lot more than $3.5b though.

        October 25, 2012 at 11:08 am |
  81. willy

    IF you want to see the future of space debris watch W A L L E.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:41 am | Reply
  82. Stephen

    I think we need to start looking at a "carry in carry out" policy in space. Whatever you bring up, you bring back (aside from active satellites). Where's the alien with the single tear to convince us to stop littering in space?

    October 25, 2012 at 10:41 am | Reply
  83. James70094

    And where is Romney's birth certificate? College transcripts? Tax returns? Obama's birth certificate was publicaly displayed on the Hawaii website for more than a year and it was backed up by the man who actually signed it. Most birthers have admitted it is legit.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:34 am | Reply
    • willy

      Maybe in orbit with this comment. I think you posted on the wrong article maybe.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:39 am | Reply
    • Chill out

      chill out, what are you talking about!

      October 25, 2012 at 10:48 am | Reply
    • Lee-Anne

      What are you babbling about? What does that have to do with this story....or any story for that matter? Sigh, the vast majority of us never cared what the birthers said then or say now. You can't fix trolling.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:50 am | Reply
  84. CNNbubba

    "Those satellites bring in television, run GPS..." What a load of you-know-what!

    Most communications and navigation satellites operate in very high, or geostationary orbits, where is is very little "debris", as well as the fact of exponentially more surface area in the swept volume of the orbital "sphere", making a collision a near-impossibility.

    The vast majority of space junk is in LEO, just like the space station.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:32 am | Reply
    • thermal jockey

      GPS satellites are in LEO, not Geosychronous orbit. So are many Spy Satellites, hence the Air Force connection.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:48 am | Reply
      • CNNbubba

        GPS satellites orbit at around 20,000km categorized as Medium Earth orbit (MEO), FAR above what is considered typical "LEO" (ISS is about 400km). The Iridium collision occurred at 700km.

        About swept area, a satellite at 400km has a potential swept surface area of 195432000000 m3, move that out to GPS distance, and it jumps to 9202770000000 m3, 47 times more surface area!

        October 25, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
  85. volsocal

    For 3.5 billion, how about building a high powered laser, put it up there, and sell tickets to let folks vaporize space junk remotely from the ground.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:28 am | Reply
  86. Bob B

    Humans are the worst thing that ever happened to this planet. We've trashed the land, sea, air and space around it.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:28 am | Reply
    • thrownout27

      That's the smartest thing I've ever heard. Without humans, their would be a perfect universe.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:39 am | Reply
      • thrownout27


        October 25, 2012 at 10:39 am |
    • Jay

      So kill yourself and help solve the problem.... Friken hippie.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:13 am | Reply
  87. Leisure suit Lary

    [King Roland has given in to Dark Helmet's threats, and is telling him the combination to the "air shield"]

    Roland: One.
    Dark Helmet: One.
    Colonel Sandurz: One.
    Roland: Two.
    Dark Helmet: Two.
    Colonel Sandurz: Two.
    Roland: Three.
    Dark Helmet: Three.
    Colonel Sandurz: Three.
    Roland: Four.
    Dark Helmet: Four.
    Colonel Sandurz: Four.
    Roland: Five.
    Dark Helmet: Five.
    Colonel Sandurz: Five.

    Dark Helmet: So the combination is... one, two, three, four, five? That's the stupidest combination I've ever heard in my life! That's the kind of thing an idiot would have on his luggage!

    [President Skroob enters the room and is told the combination]

    President Skroob: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5? That's amazing! I've got the same combination on my luggage! [Sandurz and Helmet look at each other in horror]

    October 25, 2012 at 10:18 am | Reply
    • Anonymous Joe

      For some reason, after reading the Spaceballs Quote, I have the sudden urge to say, "Suck".

      October 25, 2012 at 10:30 am | Reply
      • Emigdio Alvarez

        Suck! Suck! Suck!

        October 25, 2012 at 11:19 am |
  88. Craig

    Actually the current fence was developed by the Navy and turned over to the Air Force 10-15 years ago.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:17 am | Reply
  89. SEAL Team Alpha and Omega

    Romney's tax records are up there.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:09 am | Reply
    • Leisure suit Lary

      Along with Obama's "real" birth certificuit

      October 25, 2012 at 10:20 am | Reply
      • Exfakto

        Learn to spell!!!

        October 25, 2012 at 10:35 am |
    • petercha

      Maybe that's where Obama keeps his sealed college records and passport!

      October 25, 2012 at 10:33 am | Reply
  90. John M

    Doesn't the orbit decay for alot of this stuff, sending it into the atmosphere where it will mostly burn up on re-entry? I don't understand how it all stays up there. Satellites, shuttles, etc., need to correct their orbits to avoid this.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:52 am | Reply
    • lerianis

      Agreed. How is this stuff staying up there? From reading in middle school, eventually things within X amount of distance to the earth are pulled into the atmosphere and vaporized on entry.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:04 am | Reply
      • bleh

        You are both correct, but the time it takes for some objects to fall, especially high earth orbit debris, varies. The objects need to slow down enough to fall and in high earth orbit there is less atmosheric friction to achieve things launched 40 years ago still sit up there.

        October 25, 2012 at 10:11 am |
      • lerianis

        That explains it. Perhaps it's time, as another person said, to create a 'space garbage truck' that pushes or otherwise motivates these things into a faster-decaying orbit.

        October 25, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • milke

      We send stuff up faster than it falls back. Even worse, the issue grows exponentially worse...every time a satellite collides with debris, it generates more debris, which takes out more satellites, which generates even MORE debris, etc. It it isn't managed we could effectively make orbit off limits for humanity for years.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:05 am | Reply
      • orion


        October 25, 2012 at 10:38 am |
      • Al

        I wonder if it is feasible to build a fleet of satellites to Shepard debris into a faster descent?

        October 25, 2012 at 10:47 am |
    • Lee

      You are correct that things fall from orbit. But it takes years or even decades, so they do need to be tracked. Even when they fall, it is nice to know where it is going to land if it is big enough to survive reentry.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:08 am | Reply
      • soccerchick05

        Lee is spot on. The debris from the Chinese ASAT that was launch a few years ago are near the same orbit as the ISS and will take approximately 100 years to all decay.

        October 25, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • deathwombat

      Then why hasn't the Moon fallen out of orbit yet? There's a thing called "escape velocity", which is the speed that an object has to be travelling at to overcome the amount of gravity at a given distance from a source of gravity. Objects that are travelling slightly slower than that speed will slowly fall into a lower orbit, while objects travelling slightly faster than that speed will slowly rise into a higher orbit. One way or another, unless the object is travelling much faster or much slower than escape velocity, it could orbit for decades, or centuries, or millenia.

      Fun fact: In 2002, astronomers thought they might have discovered another moon orbiting Earth, which they designated J002E3, that turned out to be the third stage of the Apollo 12 Saturn V rocket, which has been orbiting the Earth since November 14, 1969.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:24 am | Reply
    • TA Martin

      Space debris does fall back to Earth, but it does take time. Some quick research came up with this example: The Saturn V second stage booster that lifted Skylab to orbit in 1973 remained in orbit for two years before re-entry. Check out the wiki page on Orbital Decay for more details.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:26 am | Reply
  91. Booktrek

    The space junk is an international problem and should be paid by those that have sent items into space. This expense should be shouldered by all. Since this technology also has military and other special considerations, we should sell it as a service to all those companies and nations having satellites in orbit.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:46 am | Reply
    • Peter

      If you want those who are responsible to pay for it then you better send China most of the bill. Chinese Anti-Satellite test exponentially blew this problem up and is why there was a sudden interest in it. If it had not been for that test this problem would still be 20 years out on the horizon.

      And for all of you idiots responding who think we should just simply catch this stuff with a net or shouldn't be allowed to post a comment unless you understand high school physics. Objects in LEO are traveling around 7 or 8km per second. You can't "catch" something that fast unless you match its velocity. That takes a huge amount of energy as objects are criss-crossing each other's paths so your relative velocity could be more than 15km/sec. Also magnetic fields decay at 1/r^4 meaning you have to be almost touching the object to apply any significant magnetic affect on it.

      Requiring new satellites to have a robust end of life de-orbit plan would help to solve this problem for future generations. But it still wouldn't fix the existing space trash problem. Hence the space fence option. Really this is a case of the US leading the world again. We have a global problem of space trash that has been contributed to by all countries with space flight (some countries contributing more trash than others as noted in first paragraph). And the US is the one country who is taking responsibility to solve the problem. The government is putting forward the money to track all of the space trash and alert private companies and countries around the globe when any of their assets are in danger. God bless the USA.

      October 25, 2012 at 12:07 pm | Reply
      • Lee S

        NTM if you were to "kick" objects out of orbit into space incredible amounts of force would be needed for vector and velocity changes.This poses quite a problem. I think it will be solved easier and more creatively than you think but heres hoping it is figured out before something important gets knocked out.

        October 25, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
  92. glades2

    The shuttle was very successful at capturing broken satellites and repariing them in orbit or returning them to earth for repair – why can't contractors do the same and develop a robotic space "garbage truck" to collect all the debris...

    October 25, 2012 at 9:38 am | Reply
    • BoThome

      glades2 – I agree 100%, it was something we were discussing on the other forum when CNN shifted everything over to this "security blogs" site.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:42 am | Reply
      • glades2

        Thanks – good old CNN (ugh)...

        October 25, 2012 at 10:10 am |
      • 1whoKnows

        The problem with the "Garbage Truck" is not technical! It could be done with technology that we already have. The problem is political. If the US develops a "Space Garbage Truck" they could go up and retrieve trash, but they could also go up and retrieve active satilites from other nations or use it as a wepon to take down spy satilites. The US has signed treaties to prevent the clean-up of space, because of this. So, if you want to clean up space the first thing to do is call your congressmen and change the treaty. Sorry, for the depressing news, but it's the truth.

        October 25, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
    • Jason

      The reason is one of kinetic energy.

      We're not talking about 20,000 pieces of debris floating in space like a leaf in the wind, we're talking about 20,000 pieces of space debris traveling at thousands of miles per hour with a HUGE amount of kinetic energy behind them, all traveling in different orbital paths. Simply fitting a satellite with a big net won't do it. Collecting even a single piece of debris is complicated, never mind tens of thousands of pieces.

      That said, I agree something needs to be done, but it's not an easy proposition, even for NASA.

      October 25, 2012 at 9:55 am | Reply
    • glades2

      Interesting – true, capturing one rotating satellite wasn't easy for the shuttle crews – my thinking was that if the robotic garbage truck could equal the speed of the debris, then capturing it would be easy, but apparently as you said it's a matter of physics...

      The below is from the wikipedia article on kinetic energy:

      "Spacecraft use chemical energy to launch and gain considerable kinetic energy to reach orbital velocity. In a perfectly circular orbit, this kinetic energy remains constant because there is almost no friction in near-earth space. However it becomes apparent at re-entry when some of the kinetic energy is converted to heat. If the orbit is elliptical or hyperbolic, then throughout the orbit kinetic and potential energy are exchanged; kinetic energy is greatest and potential energy lowest at closest approach to the earth or other massive body, while potential energy is greatest and kinetic energy the lowest at maximum distance. Without loss or gain, however, the sum of the kinetic and potential energy remains constant."

      October 25, 2012 at 10:09 am | Reply
    • Lee

      Good idea, but do you want to pay for it?

      October 25, 2012 at 10:10 am | Reply
      • glades2

        Do they take credit cards (LOL)???

        The idea posted about responsible countries sharing the cost makes much sense (and their credit limit is (might be) higher)...

        October 25, 2012 at 10:11 am |
    • Zeke2112

      Space Truckin!

      October 25, 2012 at 10:24 am | Reply
    • tffl

      Unfortunately, a fairly big difference between heading to one specific item at a specific location (well, orbit) in space and dealing with every piece of space junk in an orbit of interest. The problematic region stretches from lowest orbit to 1000 miles up or so – that's a region of on the order of 60 _Billion_ cubic miles, with objects of various sizes in wildly varying orbits (some quite eccentric). It's just not practical to send a spacecraft out to collect them – not only is it a huge region, but the energy reserves needed to match orbits are enormous.

      There are some ideas being kicked around of how to actually deal with the problem, but none of them is close to ready to even try experimentally, let alone ready to solve the problem.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:30 am | Reply
  93. Johnny5

    Lorraine, you may be surprised to know that satellites in space provide significant aid in environmental imaging, processing, analysis, and remediation of issues such as the one you are speaking of at Lejune. Not saying that this project of a "space fence" will fix your problem, but it certainly will help high-tech ways of potentially helping you out, so crapping all over the idea isn't necessarily in your best interest.

    October 25, 2012 at 9:36 am | Reply
  94. Lorraine

    wouldn't it be prudent to take care of all the poisoned Marines and their family members who are sick from contaminated drinking water ....before the military dreams up more science prodjects??? oh yes clean up camp lejeune ...It was never properly cleaned... people there in danger!

    October 25, 2012 at 9:00 am | Reply
    • Boisepoet

      It's not an either or proposition.

      October 25, 2012 at 12:35 pm | Reply
  95. Jeff

    Once again the Repugs and their sheep are jumping on a bandwagon with no direction. Thanks for confirming that politicians react to what information they have at the time even though it is found to be faulty later. You're not called the party of hypocrites for no reason.

    October 25, 2012 at 7:56 am | Reply
    • Jeff

      Oops, wrong story, why did the website send me to this sound-off? Never mind.....apply the comment to the Benghazi e-mail story.

      October 25, 2012 at 7:57 am | Reply
    • J

      Oh, Jeff. Can't a guy drink a cup of coffee and enjoy some science without some snarky comments about politics?

      October 25, 2012 at 9:50 am | Reply
      • Zeke2112

        J, I think Jeff has this on copy and paste and just slaps it on everything.

        October 25, 2012 at 10:25 am |
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