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Japan 'Space Junk' Mission Fails in Attempt to Tether Trash

Image: Japan 'Space Junk' Mission Fails in Attempt to Tether Trash

A computer-generated image representing space debris as seen from high Earth orbit (HEO). (Wikimedia Commons)

By    |   Tuesday, 07 Feb 2017 05:32 AM

A Japan "space junk" mission ended in failure when an electrodynamic tether from a Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency cargo ship failed to deploy before returning to Earth on Monday.

A 2,300-foot tether, made of thin wires of stainless steel and aluminum, was supposed to extend out from a cargo ship launched in December to carry supplies to the International Space Station, Agence France-Presse noted.

The tether was made to help slow down trash left in space and bring it into a lower orbit, where it would possibly enter Earth's atmosphere to burn up, stated the news service. The tether never worked in the one-week window of the mission before the cargo ship made it back to Earth, AFP noted.

"We believe the tether did not get released," leading researcher Koichi Inoue told reporters, according to AFP. "It is certainly disappointing that we ended the mission without completing one of the main objectives."

The National Research Council issued a report in 2011 recommending that NASA create a strategy to deal with space junk, including tracking and possibly removing it from space, National Public Radio reported.

"The current space environment is growing increasingly hazardous to spacecraft and astronauts," Donald Kessler, chair of the committee that produced the report and retired head of NASA's Orbital Debris Program Office, said in a statement, according to NPR.

"NASA needs to determine the best path forward for tackling the multifaceted problems caused by meteoroids and orbital debris that put human and robotic space operations at risk," Kessler added.

USA Today reported in June, 2011, that six members of the International Space Station had to secure themselves in a Soyuz escape capsule because of the threat of space junk colliding with the space station at 17,000 miles per hour.

AFP wrote that there is more than 100 million pieces of space garbage orbiting Earth, including old equipment from used satellites and bits of rocket, which experts believe could pose risks for future space exploration.

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A Japan "space junk" mission ended in failure when an electrodynamic tether from a Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency cargo ship failed to deploy before returning to Earth on Monday.
japan, space, junk, mission, fails
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2017-32-07
Tuesday, 07 Feb 2017 05:32 AM
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