Japan tests device to sweep away space junkLast week, Japan launched a cargo ship which will test a half mile-long tether to remove some of the vast amount of debris from Earth's orbit. The tether, made of aluminum strands and steel wire, is designed to slow the debris, pulling it out of orbit and into the atmosphere where the junk will burn up. The magnetic tether is being tested as just one method to clean up what is estimated to be more than 100 million pieces of space junk in orbit.
■Class discussion: Where did all the trash in Earth’s orbit come from? How fast does the debris travel? Does space junk ever make it through the atmosphere and strike the surface of the Earth? The orbiting junk threatens astronauts and satellites. How might such impacts affect your life? It is expensive to develop and test methods to clear away space debris. Why is it worth it? Some of the junk dates back to the beginning of space exploration. What U.S. space pioneer died last week?