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US Satellites Dodging Chinese Missile Debris 331

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the fakes-left-dodges-right dept.
GSGKT writes "Today's Washington Times runs a story about the increasing problem with space junk orbiting the earth. Debris from the anti-satellite missile test by the Chinese military last year threatens the integrity of more than 800 operating satellites, half of them belonging to the US. Two orbiting U.S. spacecraft were forced to change course to avoid being damaged soon after the incident. Air Force Brig. Gen. Ted Kresge, director of air, space and information operations at the Air Force Space Command in Colorado, estimates that "essentially (Chinese anti-satellite tests) increase the amount of space debris orbiting the Earth by about 20 percent", and the debris might threaten spacecraft for up to 100 years."
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US Satellites Dodging Chinese Missile Debris

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  • Well (Score:5, Funny)

    by Icarus1919 (802533) on Saturday January 12, 2008 @12:50PM (#22015390)
    On the other hand, it looks like the missiles really do work.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by andyfrommk (1021405)
      The link in the summary points to page two of the article, here is the whole article [washingtontimes.com]
  • SanctionThem? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Adambomb (118938) on Saturday January 12, 2008 @12:53PM (#22015424) Journal
    I find the tag of sanctionthem rather odd as how, realistically, would one impose these sanctions? Economic sanctions would be met with retaliatory tariffs; Do not forget that economically, North America needs them more than they need us (i'm not sure of the situation for the rest of the world).

    What's left, political pressure? Because of how much China listens to political pressure concerning their own policies? Military pressure?

    I do not see it.
    • by gbutler69 (910166) on Saturday January 12, 2008 @12:58PM (#22015498) Homepage
      North America does not *need* China in any sense of the word. That is a complete fallacy. We could cease all trade with China tomorrow and we would be perfectly fine. In fact, we'd probably be better off. Don't start in about all the "goods" we'd be missing. So what! We'd make 'em here. They'd be more expensive, but, that'd be a good thing. By the way, this WILL happen. As the oil reserves in the world dwindle, all nations will increasingly turn inward. Sorry to say it, but all the "international trade" and talk about "free trade" is economic voodoo! It's about to get UGLY! Real UGLY! Prepare for feudal times! By the way, this means the decline of human civilization and our inevitable extinction from this Galaxy. Free Trad, Schmree Trad. It won't matter one bit!
      • Re:That's a laugh! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Adambomb (118938) on Saturday January 12, 2008 @01:03PM (#22015532) Journal
        What in the hell are you talking about? Theres more to prosperity than oil.

        Remember who bought up all the steel reserves and is now slowly selling it back to the US? Have you ever been inside ANY manufacturing plant...at all..ever?

        US industry would SHUT DOWN ENTIRELY if china pulled the plugs, or be cripplingly disadvantaged compared to the rest of the world if they decided to place punitive tarrifs. And if you think this is limited to crappy dvd players and laser pointers, do not forget that factory farms that are responsible for your daily food run off harvesters and harvester parts made primarily from components from china.

        Do you have any idea how the world around you works at all?
        • Re:That's a laugh! (Score:4, Interesting)

          by peragrin (659227) on Saturday January 12, 2008 @01:38PM (#22015864)
          Yes and no. Your right China could/would hurt us dramactically. but remember this. All that steel, copper, aluminum that we import is because American's couldn't produce those same materials for that price. pennsylvania is filled with steel even though all the steel forges have shut down.

          I don't know if it was by accident or on purpose but we are using up china's steel. While keeping our own stockpiled natures way. Our companies can't compete on price, and closed down, but if price was no longer the issue then we have all sorts of resources available to us. Sure it would take a while to get going again. Lots' of little experience has been lost but If it came right down to it the USA is one of the few countries who could survive such an economic collapse.

          Other than Oil and rubber the USA could be self sufficient. We have more than enough old tires floating around that rubber would last until we could get back up on our feet.

          While It would hurt the long term repercussions wouldn't be any worse than the great depression. indeed another massive depression could very well be the spark that sets it off.
          • by Skim123 (3322)

            I don't know if it was by accident or on purpose but we are using up china's steel.

            I think it is mostly on purpose. Why use up your own non-renewable natural resources when you can let another country deplete it's stockpile first? In short, many first world nations use second and third world nations as their garbage cans and sources of non-renewable resources because they want to protect their own environment.

            • by Adambomb (118938)
              Thats a fine long term strategy, but consider the fact that you can't simply put that production capacity back online overnight. If china ever made a QUICK change, it wouldnt shut things down forever, but it would certainly have years of impact.
          • Other than Oil and rubber the USA could be self sufficient.
            And coffee. One of the few crops that can't be grown in the US.
            • by AJWM (19027)
              And coffee. One of the few crops that can't be grown in the continental US.

              There, fixed that for you. Coffee grows just fine in Hawaii and Puerto Rico.
      • by geekoid (135745)
        If we stopped trade with China tomorrow, are stock market would collapse. This would cause a huge ripple(read:Tsunami) through all industries in the US, and abroad.

        Now as far as oil reserves dwindling.
        We can do a global economy without using oil as fuel. The technology exists for electric/wind vehicles.
        There won't be a global collapse.

        Of course it matters. It matters to are descendants very much. Sure, we may be extinct in a million years(doubtful*) and the sun will grow cold in a few billion(certain) but t
        • by ScentCone (795499)
          If we stopped trade with China tomorrow, are stock market would collapse

          Not to mention that Chinese factories are the only place where we can purchase large quantities of the word "our."
    • by QuickFox (311231)

      how, realistically, would one impose these sanctions? [...] What's left, political pressure?
      What's needed is of course persuasion, give-and-take, meeting halfway, international treatises, etc. Of course the current US administration would never think of such solutions, always preferring the bullying approach.

      "Spreading democracy" my ass.

      I yearn for change. The US can be wonderful.
      • by c6gunner (950153)

        What's needed is of course persuasion, give-and-take, meeting halfway, international treatises, etc. Of course the current US administration would never think of such solutions, always preferring the bullying approach.

        Yeah! Just look at how they're bullying North Korea! Poor Kim runs home crying every day.

        The problem here isn't that the US is unwilling to negotiate. The problem is that you seem to be unable to understand that "persuasion", "give-and-take", and "meeting half-way" are not the solution

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by NoMaster (142776)

        "Spreading democracy" my ass.
        Yup. What the US practices is more like "Spread your ass" democracy.

    • I find the tag of sanctionthem rather odd as how, realistically, would one impose these sanctions?

      Nuke'em from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.

    • by 0xdeadbeef (28836)
      Do you realistically think our leadership doesn't have a contingency for open war with China, even just a trade war? The current administration notwithstanding, you're accusing our top military strategists, economists, financiers, and industrialists of outright incompetence. Somehow I doubt you're qualified to make that assessment.

      We "need" China only in the way an illegal immigrant needs a DVD player from Wal-Mart.
    • Re:SanctionThem? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Flavio (12072) on Saturday January 12, 2008 @01:53PM (#22016084)
      I think the SanctionThem was meant to be sarcastic.

      With the US economy decelerating and the loss of confidence in the US dollar, the US can't afford to stop trading with China. This move would essentially crash the global economy, and the US has the most to lose due to its massive foreign debt.

      Most people don't realise just how rotten the American economic policy is. Back in 71, Nixon realised that the US could no longer finance the Vietnam war without printing money like mad. But the gold standard prevented the Fed from doing that, so he unilaterally cancelled the Bretton Woods system that made the US dollar convertible to gold. This was a total surprise, because he neglected to consult international bankers, and became known as the Nixon Shock. So from that moment on, the US effectively started printing gold. Of course this move didn't fool the bankers around the world, so the Fed had to raise interest rates to 21%/year to convince them to carry on using dollars. Over many years, the markets sort of returned to normal, despite the fact that the US debt had risen to unprecedented levels.

      In 2006, the Fed was printing so much money that it stopped publishing the M3 money supply data in order to hide this fact. So now no one really knows how much money the Fed prints. We just estimate that the US foreign debt grows at the rate of $3 billion per day, mostly due to overseas military spending and interest on the already existing debt. This is despite the fact that the US is creating money out of thin air to partially cover this debt. A consequence is that the dollar has fallen in value about 15% in the last year against the Euro.

      It bothers me a lot when the Fed governors propose what they call "financial incentive packages". These are usually composed of tax rebates and the central banks injecting money into the markets. Again, it's more money that was created out of thin air, and the tax rebates reduce the government's capacity to cover that money or to cover the debt. It's a temporary fix to the longstanding lack of financial discipline.

      The general population typically doesn't care, and this includes Slashdot readers. They think that economics is awfully boring and complicated, and that the government is capable of taking care of policy. But the opposite is happening, and the US debt is getting out of control. This spending obviously makes politicians and contractors a lot of money, so they'll keep doing it until the economy crashes.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by inviolet (797804)

        With the US economy decelerating and the loss of confidence in the US dollar, the US can't afford to stop trading with China. This move would essentially crash the global economy, and the US has the most to lose due to its massive foreign debt.

        That's backwards. The US has the least to lose, because a debt represents a good that we consumed but have not yet paid for. The first order of business in an economic collapse is to freeze or otherwise abate all foreign debts.

        Either that, or we would just fail to

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by meringuoid (568297)
          Either that, or we would just fail to make the payments. That would crash the value of all foreign debts, and so the holders would be lucky to get ten cents on the dollar by selling their paper to speculators (who are betting that we'll pull out of it).

          This is true to a certain extent; with America owing such a huge amount, nobody's really keen to do anything that would force them to default. However... if America ever did default, that would have consequences that lasted far longer than the ensuing world

        • Re:SanctionThem? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by mochan_s (536939) on Saturday January 12, 2008 @10:49PM (#22021012)

          That's backwards. The US has the least to lose, because a debt represents a good that we consumed but have not yet paid for. The first order of business in an economic collapse is to freeze or otherwise abate all foreign debts.

          That would essentially mean that the end of all trading. So, the US would have to revert to a self-sustaining economy. US consumes the most resources in the planet per human being and that is not really feaseable.

          Either that, or we would just fail to make the payments. That would crash the value of all foreign debts, and so the holders would be lucky to get ten cents on the dollar by selling their paper to speculators (who are betting that we'll pull out of it).

          That would lead to imports crashing as well. Then, prices would go up and cause inflation. Then, everything will be worth less and less and foreign buyers will just buy up everything - companies, technology etc. Our stuff will also be sold on ten cents to the dollar out there.

          This is why China dearly wants to avoid harming our economy. When somebody owes you an entire year of their salary, and is so far making payments on time, you don't knock them out of a job!

          That is until the Chinese economy is the largest in the world which might be in 10-15 years.

          Indeed, in the long run, US foreign debts guarantee that other countries align their interests with our own, and look out for our well-being as one would keep an eye on one's best milk cow.

          It's only best milk cow as long as the milk flows.

          I've seen so people many buy shit they can't afford, live in the moment, default on loans and then file bankruptcy which absolves them of all responsibility since somebody somewhere will bear the burden of it all. I think you're suggesting a similar approach to the economy. I am skeptical of this approach.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by BlueCoder (223005)
      To a reasonable certainty anything the size of a nut or bolt is tracked and we know where it came from.

      Anything that is already in orbit before you get there is your responsibility to avoid.

      So if your satellite blows up because someone "new junk" damages it then that countries/entities responsibly for the damage to the satellite and future damage from the consequential debris from it.

      When it comes to collecting against governments there are tons of ways to collect if they have the money. The most likely be
      • by Adambomb (118938)
        How would you prove the bolt did the damage? That IS a really good point I hadn't considered, but how would one conclusively claim (as in would hold up internationally as conclusive) that the man-made debris did the damage not some random chunks of "native" space debris?

        I could see the cost being greater to have the damage properly examined than the damage would be technically worth.
    • I find the tag of sanctionthem rather odd, especially when BombThemFromSpace would be the obvious choice. Where are the scifi fans when you need them?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 12, 2008 @12:53PM (#22015426)
    It's just their way of building the Great Spacewall of China.
  • Weapons (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ShieldW0lf (601553) on Saturday January 12, 2008 @12:53PM (#22015428) Journal
    Kind of makes US reliance on space based technological dominance in the theater of war into a bit of a joke, doesn't it. If some dumb nation were to weaponize space, this is how easily they and their efforts could be shut down. Kind of makes the whole idea seem really stupid.
    • by DrWho520 (655973)
      Cluttering the space above your country to disable a space based military capability is the new "salting the earth?" If you do this as a countermeasure, you are also denying that space to any private venture as well. That includes private companies based in your adversary, your own country and every other country in the world. It is a decidedly short sited and unintelligent thing to do.
    • by Snowmit (704081)
      Well, according to this series of articles on Wired, you guys will win the space war [wired.com].

      So, uh. All clear?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by deft (253558)
      This was posted above, but the parent apparently didnt see it, so I'm gunna paste it.

      It basically points out that it would be pretty stupid to have everything reply on delicate electronics in space, and sorry, it's not that easy to beat the US military, no matter how unpopular its presidents actions may be.

      "The US has no weapon systems that are GPS guided and never has, precisely because it is vulnerable. The Chinese may have just now gotten around to developing anti-satellite technology, but the Soviet Uni
  • by NeverVotedBush (1041088) on Saturday January 12, 2008 @12:54PM (#22015434)
    They don't have so many satellites in orbit but could be worried about all the spy satellites the USA has. So they blast one of their junkers into lots of little ballistic missiles that damage all satellites.

    It doesn't hurt them so much but it definitely harms other countries.

  • Give it time... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Tastecicles (1153671) on Saturday January 12, 2008 @12:56PM (#22015462)
    ...with all the debris already up there and the continual adding to it by the Chinese, we'll eventually find ourselves planet-locked with nowhere to go without having to run the gauntlet of bolt-sized particles travelling at 17000mph+. Someone's gonna have to go up there and sweep up while at the same time avoiding adding to the mess that's already there. Can you say Planetes [wikipedia.org]?
  • ...so? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Timothy Brownawell (627747) <tbrownaw@prjek.net> on Saturday January 12, 2008 @12:57PM (#22015472) Homepage Journal
    Send someone up with a really big vacuum cleaner.
  • by MrM (169109)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quark_(TV_series) [wikipedia.org]

    'nuff said...

    MrM
  • Planetes (Score:5, Interesting)

    by lattyware (934246) <gareth@lattyware.co.uk> on Saturday January 12, 2008 @01:03PM (#22015526) Homepage Journal
    Anyone seen the anime Planetes [anidb.net]? It's all about people working collecting debris in the future, because there is so much up there, that it is a risk to the (now common and commercial) space flights. Interesting that this is becoming a topic of interest as of late.
  • by Opportunist (166417) on Saturday January 12, 2008 @01:10PM (#22015598)
    USA threatened by Chinese junk.

    Oh, that it's now also in space? That's the news here, I guess?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    China is just making sure that they are not able to be threatened by the US military complex without being able to stage a massive retaliation that would be unacceptable to the US.

    After all the countries the US has invaded recently when they don't behave according to US wishes, any nation NOT preparing to defend themselves from the USA is being foolish. The US is seen as a bigger threat to world peace than any other nation right now, and it is only prudent to prepare to defend yourself.
    • by ErikZ (55491) *
      How does causing a lot of space debris prevent any of that?

      Considering what a huge trading partner China is with the US, any war between the two would be devastating for the economies. This keeps both countries on friendly terms.

  • Easy, just equip the satellites with lasers [slashdot.org], and you just made yourself one heck of a space invaders game!!!
  • Wasn't space denial one of the design objectives for the Energia booster? It would deliver to LEO and dissipate several 100+ ton loads of steel balls, or so I heard, making it impossible for everyone to use ICBMs, not to mention launch longer-living vessels.
    • by deft (253558)
      There's plenty of nukes on subs that dont need to go into space. if the entire atmosphere was unusable... it wouldnt matter.

      And who has the biggest sub fleet? Biggest bomber fleet? navy?

      Hmm... dont think thats it.
  • As more nations develop missile technology, they're going to want/need to test their anti-satellite capability. So is there any possible way to do it safely?

    As yes, continued anti-satellite missile testing will happen, since any rational nation will have no desire to be under the thumb of someone else's satellites.

  • And who put the other 80 percent up there?

  • "essentially (Chinese anti-satellite tests) increase the amount of space debris orbiting the Earth by about 20 percent"

    So what you're saying is that the 70-80% of orbiting space junk that is American or Russian doesn't pose a hazard?

    I call bullshit and scaremongering
    • "So what you're saying is that the 70-80% of orbiting space junk that is American or Russian doesn't pose a hazard?"

      No, the only person saying that is YOU. Classic strawman.

      WHat they are saying it the total space junk INCREASED by 20%.
  • I wrote about how idiotic this missile test was [cydeweys.com] back when it first happened, and it looks like I was dead on. It's scary how myopic China is being in polluting space for everyone for some military propaganda of dubious value. I wonder how far we are from a run-away Kessler Syndrome (when the amount of space junk in orbit is so bad that the junk keeps hitting other junk in an exponentially growing manner until space is so polluted with tiny pieces of junk that we cannot even get off the Earth).
    • by imsabbel (611519)
      Of course you ignore the fact that the us did anti-sat weapon tests before, and nobody complained.
      • NIce try (Score:3, Informative)

        by geekoid (135745)
        The US shot down a satellite in 1985 that was at an altitude of about 555KM. The pieces decayed from orbit pretty quickly.

        I would like to see a complete ban on anti-satellite technology that results in there being any debris.

        The Chinese test was pretty irresponsible and they could have proven that they have the capabilities through other means. The US test was in direct response to the USSRs test. One of the last cold war cock waving events.

        That said, after Bush's little speech; which certainly implied that
  • Great Weapon (Score:4, Informative)

    by 3DKnight (589972) on Saturday January 12, 2008 @01:56PM (#22016114)
    This is probably the best "Denial" type weapon developed. In the case of the chinese, if there was ever a major threat to thier sovereignty they could make the whole orbit plane into a huge denial zone, crippling the more advanced nation that relies on that area, while giving themselves the advatage of using an army that hasn't learned to rely on satellites. the whole mentality of "if we can't have it, neither can you" works very well in warfare. Scorched earth... just taken to the next level.
  • Commercial exploitation of space is going to take off in the next twenty years. Once liability is firmly established the first commercial businesses will be the junk collectors/deflectors along with fuel/energy storage/production/transmission and repair services. All mostly robotic.
  • by Talgrath (1061686) on Saturday January 12, 2008 @05:07PM (#22018184)
    ...called Planetes in which the main characters are space junkers, people who's job is to either destroy or salvage pieces of junk floating around in space because there's so much of it now that it threatens satellites in orbit.

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