Space debris can be assessed from a number of different perspectives: souvenirs of the exploration of outer space by the human race; a typical example of the constant damage caused by the passage of humans to the environment in which they operate and live; an evidence of the historical indifference of governments in order to further their space ambitions; a necessary evil of the first, “heroic” phase of our journey to the Stars. In any case, the silent anarchy of space debris is increasingly taking over the earth’s orbits, a real space Frankenstein, ready to destroy its creator. As Frank Schätzing vividly described in his novel, Limit (2009):
“…Space debris, whose unwelcome omnipresence was down to an unparalleled orbital congestion, begun in the 1950s by the Soviets with their Sputnik launches. Since then, the remnants of thousands of missions had circulated at every altitude: burnt-out propulsion stages, decommissioned and forgotten satellites, wreckage from countless explosions and collisions, from complete reactors to tiny fragments of shrapnel, drops of frozen coolant, screws and wires, bits of plastic and metal, scraps of gold foil and vestiges of flaked-off paint. The constant fracturing of the splinters with each fresh collision meant that they were breeding like rodents… The problem was, a wasp hurtling at a luxury limousine with the momentum of an identically sized fragment of space debris would have developed the kinetic energy of a hand-grenade and written off the vehicle in an instant”.
It is encouraging, however, that the international community has woken up and has already taken significant steps to curb the tsunami of debris in outer space (UNCOPUOS Space Debris Mitigation Guidelines). However, this is not enough: It is further required to promote a collective space consciousness, at the level of Humankind, which will override national egos and will now allow the collection and removal of the cancers that humans have recklessly sown in space, and which increasingly threaten a healthy and sustainable “use and exploration” of the space domain. The question is: how ready are we for the next step?