The Japanese space agency has now promised to make sure that future launches of its new low cost Epsilon rocket will not leave its upper stages in orbit as space junk.
Epsilon’s first flight, which was a success, left two large objects — the rocket’s upper stage and a smaller post-boost stage — in an orbit with a perigee of some 800 kilometers, meaning neither will fall into the atmosphere for a century or longer. In the meantime, they will add to the population of orbiting garbage that poses a threat to active satellites traversing this orbit.
Japan has signed international agreements requiring them to not create space junk, so on future launches they are promising to make sure the upper stages are released in low enough orbits that they will quickly decay and burn up in the atmosphere.
From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.
Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.
The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.
He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.
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