Yeah, that’s 350 pieces they can see on radar, not to mention the nuts and bolts and other small stuff. And it all has to cross the orbital altitude of the ISS and many other spacecraft as the orbits decay.
Since the cost of sending a kilogram into LEO is up to $100k, shouldn't space pioneers start collecting and reusing the material in orbit already? Maybe at least start collecting the space trash for the day when the technology exists to remanufacture the material?
Yes, agreed. But my crazy idea is to start using the space junk in orbit to build new stuff in orbit, not bring it back down. The value of space junk is it's already in orbit i.e. energy already expended to get it up there. At some later time, it probably can easily be refined into raw materials like steel, titanium, or fixed like broken solar panels. Easier than converting Moon rock into new stuff. But the technology isn't here yet to do so.
The trashing of space is a "Tragedy of the Commons", a common theme throughout history. It happens because of those who are selfish and do not care for the overall good of humanity.
The only cost effective method of removing space junk is to hit each piece on its leading face with a short, very high intensity, blast of laser light which will alter its orbit sufficiently to bring it down. This could be done from the ground with adaptive optics or from space.
The energy costs of matching the orbit of each piece, grabbing it and returning it to Earth is currently prohibitive.
Interesting idea ! The laser would just need to disrupt its orbit enough change to a decaying orbit. I agree on the cost prohibitive at this time. I suspect though at some point in time that impact risk of satellites and space craft, and the value of raw materials in space, will be such that it is worth the price to remove it. I'm somewhat of a futurist. Tragedy of Commons seems very applicable nowadays especially-- not just local anymore.