NEW YORK, BRONX (ORDO News) — Scientists are currently developing a tractor beam, which they believe could be the key to solving the problem of space debris.
The idea of a tractor beam was first proposed by science fiction author E.E. Smith in 1931 and has since become an integral part of the genre, embodied in cinema and literature. However, scientists are now turning this fictional concept into scientific reality using an electrostatic attractor.
Aerospace engineering professor Hanspeter Schaub of the University of Colorado Boulder said the first major satellite collision in 2009 inspired the creation of a more realistic version of the tractor beam.
The idea is to use electrostatic attraction to remove space debris from Earth‘s orbit. Instead of capturing objects, the technology involves the use of an electron gun that shoots negatively charged electrons at “dead” satellites.
The electrons give the satellite a negative charge, but the spacecraft, having a positive charge, creates gravity, holding objects together.
However, as the researchers note, the difference between science fiction and reality is that the process will be slow. It will take a month to safely remove one satellite. The team also faces financial challenges, as a prototype could cost millions and developing a full-scale device would be even more expensive.
The researchers say that despite the challenges, their technology will be effective. Julian Hammerl of the University of Boulder warns that alternative methods, such as harpoons or giant nets, could make the problem worse by damaging objects and creating new space debris.
Although the electrostatic attractor is still in development, scientists believe its implementation in the next decade will be a major milestone in the fight against the growing threat of space debris. Perhaps what once seemed like science fiction will become reality.
News agencies contributed to this report, edited and published by ORDO News editors.
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