Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Star Wars meets Science #2: Lasers in Space

A recent article from the Daily Mail in the U.K. discusses NASA's plan to used low powered lasers to alter the orbit of debris in space around the planet Earth. 

This plan by NASA certainly seems like a more palatable plan economically and to other Nations concerned about the weaponization of space. 

Can I get a job firing one of the Telescope lasers please?

The theory is that the photons in laser beams carry a tiny amount of momentum in them which, under the right circumstances, could nudge an object in space and slow it down by 0.04 inches per second.
By firing a laser at a piece of junk for a few hours it should be possible to alter it’s course by 650ft per day.
The theory marks a change in approach from previous research which looked into using expensive military Star Wars-style lasers to destroy space junk.
The new project uses equipment that is available for just $800,000 (£500,000) with the final bill coming to just tens of millions of dollars.
Existing telescopes could even be modified, bringing the cost down further.
Nudging would also be more accurate and it is thought the process could divert up to half of all space junk.


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