Space Junk 3D exposes space debris problems

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					     Space Junk 3D exposes debris problems
Space may be the final frontier, but it's also turning into a big

With the US having this week declared it is going to work with the EU
and other nations to devise an international code of conduct for outer
space activities, a new movie called 'Space Junk' is aiming to show in
3D how humankind has been littering the earth’s low orbit during the
past years of earth exploration.

With bits of rockets, satellites and other leftovers from more than 50
years of spaceflight surrounding the Earth for thousands of miles in all
directions, the space junk problem is more than just academic. And a
new film, " Space Junk 3D," is opening Friday in IMAX and 2D digital
theaters to spread awareness of the orbital debris threat to the public.

Melrae Pictures, a creator of 3D and 2D entertainment, is behind the
upcoming release. According to the company, the stereoscopic film
aims to reflect a "growing ring of orbiting debris" it says is threatening
the future safety of space exploration. The 38-minute film is set to be
released in IMAX and digital theatres.

Directed by veteran filmmaker Melissa Butts, who also helmed the
films "3D Sun" and "Mars 3D," the new movie uses eye-popping
special effects and two pivotal events in space junk history — an
unprecedented anti-satellite test by China and the 2009 crash between
satellites from the United States and Russia — to illustrate the growing
danger of orbital debris.

Space debris can include defunct satellites, dust from rocket motors
and paint flakes that cloud around in low earth orbit and which can
provide risk to spacecrafts.

The European Union has been drawing up a voluntary code of conduct
for space activities since 2008. One of the igniters for such a code was
when the Chinese military destroyed a weather satellite in 2007,
generating massive space debris as a result.

"It isn't a coincidence that media headlines of falling debris are
growing just as we launch this film," said Butts in a statement. "As we
started researching this story, we found that most scientists agree that
we've reached this tipping point where orbital debris will continue to
grow exponentially if don't address the problem."

A New Code of conduct
But last week the US said it would not be going along with the EU's
proposed code of conduct, Ellen Tauscher, the undersecretary of state
for arms control and nonproliferation, indicated how the code was "too
restrictive" for the US. Instead, it has come up with a new tactic. This
week, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the US would be
joining up with the European Union and other nations to devise an
international code of conduct.

Citing how the long-term sustainability of our "space environment" is
at risk from space debris, Clinton said the US will not enter into a code
of conduct that "in any way constrains our national security-related
activities in space or our ability to protect the United States and our

Just last Sunday, the failed Russian satellite Phobos-Grunt crashed
back to earth, burning up over the Pacific Ocean. It had been in the
earth's orbit since its unsuccessful November launch.

The Russian Federal Space Agency, Roscosmos, is now investigating
the possible causes for the failure of the Phobos-Grunt probe. Last
September, the American UARS satellite fell into the ocean, while in
October, Germany's Rosat telescope also crashed into the ocean.

Space junk - A Serious threat to satellites
That tipping point is known as the Kessler syndrome. It is named after
Don Kessler, the former head of NASA's Orbital Debris Office, who
appears in the new film and has spent decades studying the orbital
debris issue, earning him the unofficial title of "Father of Space Junk."
The Kessler syndrome marks the point where there's so much debris
around Earth that it crashes into each other, creating more and more
space junk in a chain reaction that poses a severe threat to the
satellites providing the communications, navigation and other services
that daily life depends on.

"My hope is, that with the help of 'Space Junk 3D', that other people
will end up learning about the implications of orbital debris," Kessler
said in a statement. "Scientists are predicting that the amount of
orbital debris will increase. Those predictions are becoming reality

Today there are nearly 6,000 tons of space junk traveling at speeds of
17,500 mph (28,500 kph) in low-Earth orbit, the home of the
International Space Station and many satellites a few hundred miles
above the planet. Further out, nearly 400 dead satellites silently drift
in graveyard orbits about 22,369 miles (36,000 km) above Earth.

This space debris is constantly monitored by the U.S. military's Space
Surveillance Network to ensure that the swarms of working satellites,
not to mention the constantly crewed International Space Station, are
safe from collisions.

But a report released in September by the National Research Council
warned that the amount of space junk orbiting Earth had reached such
a high level that it may already have reached Kessler syndrome

Space junk cleaning plans
The problem is so critical that the U.S. Defense Advanced Research
Projects Agency (DARPA) has performed studies to determine the best
way to clean up orbital debris.

"Space Junk 3D" touches on some of those concepts, including giant
nets, lasers, solar sails and tethers to force old satellites back toward
Earth, where they can burn up in the atmosphere.

Even a futuristic space recycling center, complete with orbital garbage
trucks to pick up satellite trash, makes an appearance.
But Kessler said the solution will not belong to any one country or

"It is a global problem," Kessler said. "It's up to the international
community to address the issue, not just the United States."

"Space Junk 3D" is narrated by British actor Tom Wilkinson ("In the
Bedroom," "The Patriot") and presented by Melrae Pictures. With a
running time of 38 minutes, the film relies on slick digital effects to
swiftly present the space junk problem while simultaneously taking
advantage of stunning views of Arizona's Meteor Crater and simulated
galaxy crashes to depict the role that natural impacts have on the
world around us.

But it is the unnatural crashes that pose the biggest threat, especially
if humanity will continue to rely on satellites and other space-based
assets for day-to-day activities, Kessler said.

"Space is finite and you can't put so much stuff in space without
managing the way that you do it," Kessler said. "And that is extremely

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