Whip It & Whip It Good


Japan has created a solution for space litterbugs: an electric whip. No, we are not going to be subjecting engineers, scientists and astronauts to high voltage public floggings. Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is going to become the garbage collectors of outer space with their newly deployed trash collecting tether system. Sounds cool, huh? Yeah, the gringa thought her dear readers would get a kick out of this technology.

Guess how long this baby is? Six football fields… 600 yards and about the size of a clothesline. Incredible. But how does it work? Well, we’ll find out once it gets unpacked from the goodie package onboard the Kounotori 6 spacecraft that was scheduled to deliver its payload December 14 to the International Space Station (ISS).  Called EDT (for electrodynamic tether), its mission is to lasso about 20,000 pieces of space debris that are classified as hazardous on Earth-bound tracking systems.

What makes space junk dangerous? Well, in and of itself a single piece may eventually fall to Earth. Depending on its size and the materials it is made of, it could cause serious damage and possibly even fatal injuries once it impacts Earth. In addition, multiple pieces of debris could collide. That might cause space garbage to change trajectory and possibly collide with the ISS. Such an event could kill our astronaut crews. So, JAXA’s space garbage collection mission is a noble cause. But why the electricity?

The electricity is not for zapping space junk into submission. It is how the tether is directed and guided. Astronauts will use the tether to guide garbage into a trajectory that will destroy it before impact by traveling through the fieriest (is that a word?) path possible.

What kind of stuff is out there that we should be worried about? Well, there is space junk the size of a school bus. Something that big could become very problematic. Coolest of all is that the whip has cameras mounted so we will eventually get to see it in action. But you can see it get launched on its way to the ISS in the video below:

The next video below was posted on JAXA’s YouTube channel in anticipation of the live use of the EDT. At the time that the gringa penned this post there was no video available. However, by the time the scheduled post is on the blog, hopefully you will get to see some live feed of astronauts whipping outer space clean!

Sources:  JAXA

Image Credit:  www.npr.org

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gringaofthebarrio

A barrio gringa with a dream of cosmic proportions: writing to satiate my insatiable curiosity, worldwide literacy beginning with our youth, and to be the first barrio gringa to explore outer space!

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