Friday, May 6, 2016
The Edge of Known Space (part 5)
Look around for a moment, and note the many tiny objects nearby. A paperclip, a USB drive, a small coin. These innocent little things can actual be deadly in space—imagine one of them traveling in space at 17,000 mph, or worse, imagine a cluster of them flying toward your spacecraft at that rate. Space junk is a very serious threat to space explorers, considering that today's spacecraft shielding can only deflect objects smaller than a centimeter. As unlikely as it seems in the vastness of space, things do collide sometimes, breaking into millions of tiny pieces that can quickly become a deadly cloud of debris. Even if the intrepid space explorer clears the deadly orbital threat left behind by human litterbugs, there is the risk of space dust—clouds of tiny particles moving at incredible speeds. In 1967, NASA's Mariner 4 spacecraft ran into a cloud of cosmic dust that impacted it so severely, the insulation was ripped off the craft and the force of the debris was enough to change its course. Tiny bits of debris are untrackable because they are so small, so flying through space is like sailing blindly through an ocean mine-field. Early explorers on Earth faced a lot of challenges and serious hardships, but the explorers of our future and those that have already braved the dangers of space—those men and women possess courage beyond measure!