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Pac-Man Spacecraft To Eat & Digest Space Debris

Man seemingly cannot help but leave trash behind wherever he goes. Humanity seeking to conquer space – as per his ability – has resulted in huge amounts of debris left floating out there. According to an estimate, 21,000 pieces of debris larger than 10 centimetres are currently orbiting the Earth. Now, how to clean up the mess?

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Image credits: EPFL.

The debris left in space includes abandoned spacecrafts, leftovers from controlled explosions, remnants from international spacecraft separations, and rocket motor waste, amongst others. All this is claimed to be floating around our planet. How to get rid of them? Scientists from the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland have concentrated their efforts to developing methods to monitor, collect and destroy satellites that are no more in use.

Their most recent project, entitled “CleanSpaceOne”, entails using a Pac-Man style spacecraft to spot and destroy debris in the form of a small cubic satellite called SwissCube. The spacecraft will deploy a net to get hold of the satellite before destroying it in space.

“The idea is to have the biggest aperture possible, to increase the chance to eat the cube while it’s near the chaser,” EPFL’s Michel Lauria explains in a video uploaded on YouTube.

Upon capturing the small satellite, the net has to close onto it at the right moment because the former might rebound when hitting the spacecraft. The scientists have, therefore, worked on various calculations to ensure that the measurements relating to the position and speed of the incoming objects are correct to prevent the satellite from ‘escaping’ the Pac-Man spacecraft.

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