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  • Hey guys! Matt here for Science or Fiction.

  • Many countries have proposed developing giant lasers to shoot at things in space.

  • No, this is not the plot of Austin Powers 4, these are real, honest-to-god plans hatched

  • up by a group of scientists.

  • The idea is that a massive laser would be used to zap space junk into such tiny pieces

  • so that they will no longer pose a threat to important spacecraft like the International

  • Space Station.

  • But, would that even work?

  • Are space lasers really a thing?

  • Well, first, you might be wondering, what the heck is space junk?

  • There are actually a couple of types.

  • There's natural and unnatural kinds.

  • The natural kind mostly refers to small meteors that orbit the sun.

  • The unnatural kind, also known as orbital debris, includes any man-made object orbiting

  • the Earth that no longer serves a useful function.

  • This includes pieces of nonfunctional spacecraft, old rockets, abandoned launch vehicle stations,

  • retired satellites, some dude in a Telsa/car etc.

  • Now, many space agencies are trying to develop plans to deal with the debris because space

  • junk is becoming a huge problem for their operations.

  • And this shouldn't come as a big surprise given that humans have been sending all sorts

  • of things up into the cosmos over the last 60 years.

  • There are over 20,000 pieces of space junk larger than a softball currently orbiting

  • Earth.

  • There are well over 500,000 pieces of space junk that are the same size as a marble or

  • larger, and millions upon millions of pieces that are much smaller.

  • That said, even a super tiny piece of space junk could inflict serious damage on an active

  • spacecraft, including the ISS, given that most of these morsels are traveling up to

  • speeds of up to 17,500 mph.

  • NASA first started to consider the option of a laser in 1996.

  • The space agency teamed up with the U.S. Air Force on Project Orion, which suggested that

  • a powerful laser could be used to vaporize surface material on space junk.

  • If vaporized enough, the idea was that the objects would be taken out of orbit and come

  • hurtling back to Earth, where they would burn up in the atmosphere.

  • This proposal never became a reality because the laser would be so powerful that it could

  • also have been considered a weapon, which wasn't likely to sit well with other countries.

  • Since then, NASA has proposed using much less powerful lasers to do a similar job.

  • In 2011, a team looked into using a system that would operate using photon momentum.

  • Instead of one quick zap, this laser would use a much weaker light that would concentrate

  • on one piece of junk for an hour or two over the course of multiple days.

  • Still, this proposal has yet to become a reality.

  • There have also been proposals for magnets that would be used to lure the pieces out

  • of orbit.

  • And (a group of) European engineers have recently developed a net with a harpoon to test the

  • effectiveness of plucking debris out of orbit and sending it into the atmosphere to burn.

  • But as lasers remain one of the more popular ideas, many still fear that the deployment

  • of lasers could mean the militarization of space.

  • Theoretically, a laser could also destroy functioning satellites from other countries,

  • not only space debris.

  • There are strict international treaties in place to prevent space militarization, which

  • makes plans like this one very controversial.

  • Whether or not space lasers ever become a reality, the plan is feasible.

  • The U.S. and other countries definitely have the technology to carry it out.

  • So while this laser scheme may seem like something out of a Star Wars or James Bond movie, it's

  • real, and it could start within our lifetimes.

  • For more epic stories of innovation that shaped our future check out THE AGE OF AEROSPACE.COM

  • Speaking of something out of a James Bond movie, what happens when humans go really

  • fast?

  • Like, you know, how Bond does in those fancy cars and jets.

  • Well, we talk about what G forces do to the human body in this video here.

  • Make sure to check it out.

  • And as always, please like and subscribe and keep coming back to Seeker for more videos.

Hey guys! Matt here for Science or Fiction.

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B1 US space junk laser debris orbit spacecraft

Why These Lasers Are Too Powerful to Use in Space

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    joey joey posted on 2021/04/13
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