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Photo taken by astronaut Tim Peake showing the effect of a flake of paint in space travelling at high velocity, in the Capola observatory module of the International Space Station.

Image from here ~


What Happens When the Sky Starts to Fall?

Kim Peart

20 June 2016


A flake of paint blowing in the wind will do no harm on Earth, even if it hits the windscreen of a speeding car.


In space, where there is no air, a flake of paint flying at 34,500 km/h is in a whole different ball park.


When a window of the Capola observation deck on the International Space Station was cracked recently, it was believed to be the result of a flake of paint in space moving at high velocity.


If a flake of paint could do that much damage, imagine what a lost nut would do?


A flake of paint hitting a military satellite at that speed could take it out and if the incident were to be misunderstood and reacted to, could easily lead to unexpected war on Earth, and in space, beginning with the destruction of enemy satellites. 


There are over a trillion dollars worth of satellites whizzing around above Earth and a great many dead satellites, as well as a huge volume of space junk of all sizes, from discarded rockets to flakes of paint.


Satellites are in many ways the invisible face of modern society, providing weather information, environmental monitoring, communications, navigation with GPS, internet services and more. [1]


Without satellites, we would have little or no warning about many severe weather events.


Seeking to pursue space development for science and profit at minimal cost, little thought has been given to the need to keep space clean.


It is estimated that there are 170 million pieces of space junk in orbit around Earth, including 30,000 pieces of debris larger than a football. [2]


Every rocket flying into space must now dodge space junk and from time to time the International Space Station must be moved to avoid a piece of high velocity space debris.


With more satellites being sent into space all the time, the volume of objects above Earth is constantly increasing.




The 2013 hit SF movie ‘Gravity’ brought to the attention of the World a problem that most people had no idea about, where all satellites and space stations above Earth were wiped out in an avalanche of high velocity space junk.


The potential for this happening was first identified by Donald J. Kessler in 1979 and subsequently became known as the Kessler Syndrome. [3]


With such a high volume of working space stations, live satellites, dead satellites and space junk flying around above Earth, Kessler feared that a moment in time would arrive when a satellite was destroyed, sending high velocity debris into other satellites, causing an avalanche of space junk that quickly destroys all satellites and space stations, leaving a maelstrom of high velocity debris to rule the stars.


The sky would be brilliant on a clear night, as space junk came roaring in through the air, and often reached the ground.


With a trillion dollars worth of satellites suddenly plumetting to zero value, we can but imagine the economic impact of this event on Earth.


If all satellites can be lost, we can also wonder about the safety of air travel, as space junk flying in hits too many aircraft, making flights too dangerous.


We could be grounded.


In February 2016 a man in India was killed by an object from space, believed to be a meteorite. [4]


This is the first recorded instance in history of anyone being killed by an object from space.


If a space junk avalanche happens, we may all be left wondering if we will get hit by a piece of space junk.


The Australian Government takes the space junk problem quite seriously, investing $150 million to monitor and bring down to Earth dead satellites and space debris. [5]


Dr Ben Greene, the head of the Space Environment Centre at Mt Stromlo, near Canberra, recently declared, "The most pessimistic mathematical model says that we are within five years of having a 50-50 chance that a catastrophic avalanche of collisions will occur any day. The most optimistic model says we've got 25 years.” [6]


Are we prepared to accept that we now live with a problem that could strike any day within the next 25 years?


A maelstom of space junk above Earth would make it impossible to pursue space exploration or development for hundreds of years, until a critical volume of space debris had fallen to Earth.


All by itself, a space junk avalanche could bring human civilization crashing down and we can have no idea if we will survive the experience, or be able to put the pieces back together again.


Blinded, it is too possible that nuclear armed powers could panic in fear of invasion and unleash nuclear madness, which could herald the end of all life on Earth.


With or without nuclear war, what follows may be an apocalypse, as human society collapses into savagery.


The psychological impact alone would deflate the human spirit.


So much would be lost so swiftly.


So many dreams smashed.




With tensions on Earth mounting over Ukraine and the South China Sea, we are living with a powder keg on Earth that has a very short fuse.


Should some accident or misunderstanding tumble into conflict and war goes global, one of the first targets to be hit will be military satellites, to blind the eyes in the sky of the enemy.


If this happens, it could be the trigger for a space junk avalanche that takes out all satellites.


The space junk avalanche could also be caused by a small asteroid flying close to Earth and hitting a satellite.




Faced with an impossible challenge, in addition to many other problems that we now face on Earth, including a carbon crisis, it is pretty hard to imagine what can be done to save human civilization and avoid the nuclear madness that may follow a space junk avalanche.


We need to clean up space, but we also need to ensure that we have a future in space, to keep the human spirit alive with hope.


If we could establish a sustainable industrial presence beyond the space junk zone, which could be in the orbit of the Moon, we would keep the space dream alive and also be able to deal with the space junk problem from above.


A sustainable industrial presence beyond Earth is when there is no further need for resources or investment from Earth, which would be achieved by using power generated with the Sun to process resources gained from near Earth asteroids, from the Moon and later from Mars and the Asteroid Belt.


It would be highly expensive to establish a sustainable industrial presence beyond Earth at a human scale, but if there is a will to act, this could happen.


An alternative approach would be to invest in a mini robot space program, aimed at establishing a sustainable industrial presence beyond Earth, at a mini robot scale.


This approach would achieve the aim at a fraction of the cost of a human scale project and be delivered so much faster.


Once a mini robot industrial presence is built beyond Earth, mini robots can be used to build human scale environments.


A mini robot space program would be largely automated, managed by AIs in space and directed from Earth using remote control systems.


Virtual reality headsets, like the Oculus Rift, could be used to see through the eyes of a robot in space and work with the robot hands.


With the clock ticking against us, we have no time to waste.




By keeping hope alive with a sustainable industrial presence beyond Earth, we can


keep the human spirit alive on Earth, with hope for a future among the stars,


make any product for Earth markets,


build human habitats in orbital space settlements anywhere in the Solar System,


create a stellar economy, built on the power of the Sun, where there will be no limit to growth,


have direct access to the level of power needed to win back a safe Earth from the carbon crisis and


be able to explore the stars.




If we wish to assure our survival, we have no choice but to take on the impossible, rally the numbers needed and invest in the work to build a sustainable industrial presence beyond Earth.


If Dr Greene is correct, then the space junk avalanche will strike any day within the next 25 years, and that is one hell of a scarifying prediction.


What can we do?


We can use the technology we have and direct our energies toward building a future that has a future.


We can connect globally in the virtual worlds, to plan local action and build working models of the future we plan in space.


In the virtual world robots can be trained toward using robots in space, especially via remote control systems.


We can work as individuals and in teams to develop working parts of a sustainable industrial presence beyond Earth.


The way is open, if we wish to kick the door open and get to work.




Our small space development enterprise, Space Pioneers, is located in Ross in the rural heart of Tasmania.


From Ross we can reach out to the world and using the virtual worlds, we can hold meetings anywhere on Earth where there is an Internet connection.


We own land in Ross, where we plan to develop the hands-on aspects of the mini robot space program.


We welcome collaboration, should anyone like to join us in Ross.


We are looking to create paid work with this project, which will happen as funding is secured.


Anyone on Earth, who values survival, can connect with Space Pioneers via the virtual worlds.




To assure our survival beyond a predicted space junk avalanche, we need to secure a sustainable industrial presence beyond Earth.


We also need to maximise all efforts to clean up space junk, so that we will avoid a space junk avalanche happening, if we can.


We call on all individuals and organisations on Earth to rise to the challenge of solving the space junk problem and assuring human survival, by working on the mini robot space program, as individuals, or in teams.


We can look toward prizes being established for each phase of the project, from virtual world activities to an industrial presence in space.


With so much at stake, can there be any greater challenge on Earth?




The greatest prize of all will benefit all Earth’s children, when we create a stellar economy that sends poverty into history.


We can start designing the shape of the stellar economy now.


An economy free of poverty will improve the prospects for peace on Earth, which will also improve the security environment in space.


We can also design the shape of a sustainable human presence on Earth, which will become possible with industry shifting into space. 


What will a sustainable human presence on Earth look like?


There may be a slow Earth movement, where container ships and jet planes are replaced by airships, able to reach any location on Earth.


The needs of evolution and the size of each person’s environmental footprint, will determine how many people can live a good life on our home planet.


Creating land beyond Earth in orbital space settlements will make a place for people to go in greater number than ever lived on Earth.


We will have the power of the Sun to deal with the carbon crisis, to extract excess carbon from the air and process extracted carbon into a useful resource.


We will be able to build an adjustable sunshade in space, to keep the Earth cool.


We will be able to build a sunshade above Venus, as the first step toward transforming second rock into a second Earth.


The second step would be the extraction of carbon from the Venusian air.


We have all to gain by reaching to the stars, and all to lose on Earth, if we ignore the basic demands of survival.




As we strive for a better future on Earth and in space, we can also prepare for the worst that may happen to our world.


If the space junk avalanche strikes, before a sustainable industrial presence beyond Earth is established, we will need to look to our survival instinct. 


We can gather together the knowledge of rebuilding space technology and look toward a time when we can reach beyond Earth again.


There may be many survival communities around the Earth, where the knowledge of rebuilding a space program is preserved.


We can keep our society going on Earth, using the same approach with mini robots that we would use in space.


We can also work on ways to break through the space junk maelstrom above our heads, secure space beyond Earth and deal with high velocity space junk from above, as well as from Earth.


It may be possible to develop some form of shield, to punch through the space junk maelstrom.


It will be catastrophic if the global economy collapses and nations panic as chaos rises around them.


Should nuclear madness be unleashed and the planet gripped by a nuclear winter, we will need to plan to survive that.


We will have our work cut out for us, like any society that must meet the demands of survival in a difficult environment.


We may find that we must learn to live on Earth as if we were living in space.




If time is with us, we may stand a good chance of securing a sustainable industrial presence beyond Earth, before a space junk avalanche hijacks our future.


At the same time, we can maximise all efforts to clean up space.


Acknowledging the space junk problem, many satellites are now being designed to return to Earth at the end of their working life, to burn in the air, or land in the sea.


But a satellite that dies, and many do, cannot be controlled or returned to Earth.


At times even working satellites crash into each other.


The spacefaring nations have pursued space development on the cheap, blithely blind to the need to keep space clean.


We must now look to a new era of space development, where space will be kept clean.


The most cost-effective way to achieve this, is to establish a sustainable industrial presence beyond Earth and beyond the space junk zone.


If we can achieve this with mini robots, it will happen faster, sooner and cheaper than is possible with a human scale space program.


And mini robots can press on to build human scale space habitats and the shuttle craft that return to Earth to collect passengers.


We can look toward the day when we, or our children, will watch the Earth from space in the deck of an orbital space settlement.


All ideas begin as a thought and some ideas are quite bold, like the decision to go to the Moon when the space age had just begun.


Now we are told that the space age could end, any day, so we will need to be bold, to reach for the stars.





[1]   What Are Satellites Used For?

Union of Concerned Scientists


[2]   Astronomers meet in Canberra to tackle problem of man-made 'space junk’

James Fettes, 31 May 2016, ABC News Online


[3]   Kessler syndrome


[4]   Did a meteorite kill a man in India?
Soutik Biswas, 10 February 2016, BBC News


[5]   New Australian research centre to remove space junk, save satellites and spacecraft
Carl Smith and Chris Kimball, 11 Mar 2014, ABC News Online

[6]   'Catastrophic avalanche' of space junk could wipe out satellites within years
Brodie Smith, 31 May 2016, Sydney Morning Herald


ABOUT Kim Peart

Kim Peart was raised in Howrah from 1952, when there were farms there. Finding adventure in Scouts and Army Cadets, Kim later pursued art and founded a Viking Society in Tasmania in 1975, pursuing history and culture. In 1976 Kim saw an ad for space settlement and signed up to be a space development advocate. Environmental matters came later and figuring out how we can live in harmony with Nature. Earth matters and space issues merged in 2006 when Kim wrote his document ~ Creating A Solar Civilization ~ exploring how we can only achieve a sustainable human presence on Earth, by building a sustainable industrial presence beyond Earth. Kim now lives in Ross with his wife, Jennifer, where an interest is taken in the Ross Bridge and other history, as well as a local space project on our land and using the virtual worlds to connect globally with like-minded people, to plan local action toward creating a celestial future and winning back a safe Earth. The adventure has only just begun.

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