(The Hill) Alexander William Salter 10/04/19 10:30 AM October 4 marks the 62nd anniversary of the launch of Sputnik 1 the first artificial satellite. It was the dawn of a new era inaugurating the space race and heralding revolutionary changes in technology politics and society. But mankinds trek to the stars had a pernicious side-effect: We started treating outer space like a junkyard. Scientists have called attention to the space debris problem for decades. Now time is of the essence to get the problem under control. With the United States taking concrete steps toward establishing a U.S. Space Force and with deep-pocketed entrepreneurs collaborating on making space tourism and space hotels a reality we need bold leadership and revolutionary ideas to address the debris problem. Thankfully both the private and public sectors are stepping up. The U.S. Office of Space Commerce recently hosted a workshop at the National Institute of Standards and Technology campus in Boulder Colorado where (full disclosure) I was a panelist. Space debris was one of the most-discussed topics. Public servants leading academics and industry leaders came together to highlight the problem and discuss solutions. Sputniks anniversary is a great reminder that this problem is nothing new. The rocket body from Sputnik 1 was the first piece of orbital debris which NASA defines as any man-made object in orbit about the earth which no longer serves a useful function." Today orbital debris poses a significant threat to public and private space assets such as communication satellites. There are at least 300000 pieces of debris large enough to destroy a satellite upon impact.
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