4.03.2009

Europeans seek to organize space junk

http://www.usatoday.com/tech/science/space/2009-04-02-space-junk_N.htm

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DARMSTADT, Germany — Researchers concerned about an increasing amount of debris orbiting the earth are calling for the active removal of space junk, saying it will ensure a safe environment around the planet.

More than 300 scientists and other experts who met for four days at the European Space Agency said Thursday that sharing information is a crucial first step in preventing collisions and predicting with more accuracy where derelict satellites may fall to earth.

"We need to share more data," said Thomas Schildknecht of the Aeronautical Institute of the University of Bern. "We consider this the most important and challenging part for the immediate future."

Various international agencies track the refuse in space. The U.S. Strategic Command, which monitors space debris, keeps track of 13,943 orbiting objects 4 inches (10 centimeters) or larger orbiting the earth, and there are thousands more piece that that are even smaller.

But Heiner Klinkrad, of ESA, emphasized that, in the long term, the removal of derelict satellites and other unused spacecraft was essential if collisions are to be prevented.

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