I’m sure most readers who follow the Cosmic Diary blogs heard about the satellite collision last week. Thankfully, the experts are saying that the debris poses little risk to the astronomers currently living in the ISS and that the next shuttle launch–currently scheduled for no earlier than Feb. 27–shouldn’t be affected.
This collision mishap has of course raised lots of questions about international space policy concerning satellite tracking methods and the cleanup and regulation of space “junk”. One of my favorite websites (Astronomy Picture of the Day…it’s my browser home page :)) had a graphic a few days ago of orbiting objects and the projected orbits of the new debris…it’s amazing how much stuff is actually up there! Here’s the link.
One of my first concerns when I heard this news was about the next servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope (“SM4”–the 4th Servicing Mission. Kind of. That’s what the official name is, anyway :)). SM4 was originally scheduled for last year, but has been delayed until May for reasons I might blog about later. And sure enough, just yesterday there was a story about it on Discovery’s News blog. However, there have been no formal delays, and so we are still really hoping for May 12. 🙂 I say “we”, because I work extensively with Hubble data. In fact, a large part of my thesis work utilized data from HST, and the two main projects I am working on now are with data from Hubble. I would certainly not be the only astronomer to say that HST has revolutionized our view of the Universe. So, here’s to hoping that this recent addition of more space junk after this accident doesn’t prevent or delay the servicing mission.