• Question: What would you do if a satelite or a part of something went into orbit and had a malfunction?

    Asked by dalton to Dan on 15 Mar 2012.
    • Photo: Dan Veal

      Dan Veal answered on 15 Mar 2012:

      This happens more than you’d think! They call it “space junk” and there are loads of old satellites, parts of satellites, things like tools that austronauts have dropped in space (oops), and it’s really dangerous cause if you hit a piece of space junk with another satellite, or worse a space shuttle, it’s bad news.

      If things are pretty close to the earth (like the international space station, the one austronauts go up to live and do experiments in, it’s about 250 kilometers high) there is drag (like when you stick your hadn otu the window, the wind drag forces it back) and eventually it’ll fall back down to earth and burn up in the atmosphere.

      If it’s way further, like 38ish thousand kilometers away where GPS satellites are, there’s not much you can do. It’s too hard and to expensive to go “grab it” with another satellite and usually they just leave it up there.

      That’s why satellites are so hard (but fun) to work on: you only get one shot and it has to all work.