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The buildup of space debris orbiting the Earth, which poses a threat to spacecraft and the environment, has reached a critical point, scientists say.
The space junk trend no longer can be reversed by full compliance with mitigation measures now in place; it will get worse without more-aggressive action such as active debris removal, or ADR. And that just might pose the biggest engineering challenge of the 21st century, according to J.-C. Liou of the Orbital Debris Program Office at NASA's Johnson Space Center.
"As the international community gradually reaches a consensus on the need for ADR, the focus will shift from environment modeling to completely different challenges: technology development, systems engineering, and operations," Liou explained in the July edition of NASA's Orbital Debris Quarterly News, issued by his office in Houston.
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