[ExI] De-Orbiting Gold

Dan dan_ust at yahoo.com
Tue May 22 18:55:08 UTC 2012

On Monday, May 21, 2012 4:29 PM spike <spike66 at att.net> wrote:

> Over fifty yrs ago, the US president issued a technical challenge to
> take a man to the moon and back in this decade etc.  American
> rose to that challenge and made happen.  Now we face another
> worthwhile space goal: take any existing space material, including
> spent rocket motors, dead satellites, etc, dock with it in orbit, take
> the materials and process it into something else, anything useful.  

My suspicion is the problem is not as big as it's made out to be. I don't mean the clean up problem is an easy one to solve, but that the problem itself is being made into something more than it is. Also, rather than focus on the engineering solution, take a look at what might be called the root of the problem, if there is one: the tragedy of the commons. Earth orbit is basically being treated as a commons where others can externalize the costs of their use. If it were treated more as something to be homesteaded, it might be easy to visit those costs of those who originate them. For instance, if someone owns an arc of an orbit (for a period of time; I'd allow for abandonment here), then someone else dumping stuff on that property would be nuisance or a tort. This would disincentivize such dumping in the first place and also incentivize monitoring of potential dumping on orbit.

This, of course, does not resolve the problem of existing junk or the engineering problem of how to both avoid such dumping or deal with it afterwards.



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