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Heavens, What a Mess! How to Deal with the Problem of Space Debris

Wednesday, October 15, 2014 @ 7:30 PM-9:00 PM


Featured Speaker: William Schonberg, Ph.D., P.E., F. ASCE, F. ASME, Assoc F. AIAA, Department Chair, Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering and Professor, Aerospace Engineering, Missouri University of Science & Technology

FREE and OPEN to ALL.  Middle and high school students welcome!  Check with your teacher, you may be able to attend for extra credit!  Proof of attendance available following the presentation.

Parking is free in the Zoo’s North Lot.

Where does space debris come from? How much space junk is really out there? What happens when a spacecraft is hit by a piece of space junk? What happens if one hits the International Space Station? How can we protect a spacecraft against damage by space debris impacts? Is there any way to clean up the near-earth region of space? Will the situation improve or worsen in the future?

Get the answers to these and all your questions about space junk in this fascinating, out-of-this-world talk on our messy heavens.

Since 1957, the near-earth population of trackable space objects has grown from one, to over 18,000 objects that are typically softball size or larger. Of these 18,000+ trackable objects, only several hundred are operational spacecraft. The remainder, are pieces of space junk—objects which no longer serve any useful purpose. Some are fragments from explosions; others are from the breakup of satellites or rocket boosters. In addition to the thousands of trackable objects, there are several hundred thousand objects the size of marbles, and several million the size of sand grains.

As a result, all spacecraft that operate in low-earth-orbit, like the International Space Station, are subject to high-speed impacts by orbital space junk, or space debris. The threat of damage from high-speed orbital debris particle impacts has become a significant design consideration in the development and construction of long duration earth-orbiting spacecraft. Even a marble-size piece of space debris can inflict considerable damage, or even destroy an orbiting operational spacecraft or satellite. NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and many other countries around the world are expending considerable resources to design and build spacecraft that can withstand damage from pieces of space junk and survive in the hostile space environment.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014
7:30 PM-9:00 PM
Event Category:


Saint Louis Zoo
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St. Louis, MO 63110 United States
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