Our View – Space no longer an option for exploration

It may seem a little premature for us to have already started polluting (and ruining) outer space, but according to an article in the Feb. 6 issue of The New York Times, we have. And, unfortunately, it seems that this pollution may hinder our ability to explore outer space more in-depth in the future without creating more harmful “junk.”

According to the article, within the last decade scientists have come to agree that the amount of rubbish in orbit around the Earth has “surpassed a critical mass” with about 10,000 “detectable objects,” or objects that are four inches or more in size, floating around in space.

This comes amid the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that was released last Friday. It announced that global warming is a serious threat that will continue for centuries even if carbon dioxide levels hold at the current levels. This is in large part due to our excessive pollution.

According to a fossil fuel pollution expert at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee who was quoted in an article in the Feb. 5 issue of the Los Angeles Times, even eliminating all the cars, trucks, trains, airplanes and boats in the United States would only reduce our carbon dioxide emissions by 7.3 percent.

According to the L.A. Times article, the last time our planet was in equilibrium with the amount of carbon dioxide emitted and the amount the planet can absorb was 150 years ago.

So it seems our pollution is not only posing a serious threat to life as we know it on Earth, but space exploration will also be seriously changed because of our unwillingness to clean up after ourselves.

According to the N.Y. Times article, the federal list of objects that are floating around the Earth includes old satellites, spent rock stages, a camera, a hand tool and other debris leftover from destructive tests and explosions. These things pose a threat to future exploration because rockets will have to penetrate this layer of leftovers before further penetrating space. These objects can then hit and seriously damage new satellites or other exploratory devices and in doing so create even more debris.

As we continue our destructive path in ruining our planet, some, more fancifully inclined, people envision space exploration as a viable means of finding a new home in the cosmos, but with the emerging danger in space exploration even that is no longer an option.

Thankfully the damage we are inflicting on our Earth is not beyond repair. It seems that converting all electrical power plants to solar or other sustainable power could reduce global emissions by 39 percent.

With electrical power plants being responsible for such an enormous amount of the pollution we emit, it seems that we, the consumers, can aid in the reduction of harmful gases released by these plants by consuming less energy. The less we consume, the less these power plants need in fossil fuels.

The responsibility for creating serious change in the way we deal with pollution lies with us. Much of the problem can be solved by being more conscientious of our consumption. As for space exploration, until we can create a viable, realistic trash service for space, it’ll have to sit on the back burner.

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