What's the Latest Development?

Engineers at a Scottish university are developing laser technology capable of saving all life on Earth should an errant asteroid threaten the planet. A swarm of space satellites flying in formation, cooperatively firing solar powered lasers onto their target, could be more effective than current designs for a single, unwieldy spacecraft. Dr Massimiliano Vasile, of Strathclyde University's Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering said: "The approach we are developing would involve sending small satellites, capable of flying in formation with the asteroid and firing their lasers targeting the asteroid at close range."

What's the Big Idea?

In the short term, the same laser technology could be used to clean up the potentially menacing field of space junk speeding around the planet above its atmosphere. Currently, the amount of space junk could create what is known as the Kessler syndrome, when "the density becomes so high that collisions between objects could cause an exponentially increasing cascade of other collisions." As human communication networks rely heavily on space satellites, any series of collisions could have far ranging consequences. 

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