Millions of ‘space junk’ objects orbit Earth; The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will test a solution.

Because, you know ... humans are the polluting kind.

A sub-mission, dubbed "RemoveDebris," is included in the SpaceX Falcon 9 Dragon-14 mission, launched April 2 from Cape Canaveral, which has a number of research projects aboard. 

RemoveDebris includes a main satellite, weighing 100 kg, and a pair of smaller “dummy” targets known as CubeSats, which can inflate like balloons to mimic the dimensions of an average object considered “space junk.” 

How big is the space junk problem? Beginning in 1957, humans have accumulated at least 7,000 satellites and 5,000 rockets in low Earth orbit. Sometimes these objects collide with each other, as well, producing even more space debris as the things break apart. It’s massive: The European Space Agency estimates 166,000,000 debris objects polluting Earth’s orbit as of January, 2017. Wow. 

Some of them are careening around low Earth orbit at over 17,000 mph. Even worse, an object the size of a sugar cube can cause significant damage when it collides with a new satellite attempting to reach orbit.  

It’s not the first time the idea has been conceived; researchers in China are working on a “Space robotic cleaner” that will be designed to clean up space junk and use it as fuel. 

The project is spearheaded by the Surrey Space Centre of the University of Surrey in SE U.K. and will begin testing near the end of May, 2018. 

​Is science synonymous with 'truth'? Game theory says, 'not always.'

Good science is sometimes trumped by the craving for a "big splash."

  • Scientists strive to earn credit from their peers, for grants from federal agencies, and so a lot of the decisions that they make are strategic in nature. They're encouraged to publish exciting new findings that demonstrate some new phenomenon that we have never seen before.
  • This professional pressure can affect their decision-making — to get acclaim they may actually make science worse. That is, a scientist might commit fraud if he thinks he can get away with it or a scientist might rush a result out of the door even though it hasn't been completely verified in order to beat the competition.
  • On top of the acclaim of their peers, scientists — with the increasing popularity of science journalism — are starting to be rewarded for doing things that the public is interested in. The good side of this is that the research is more likely to have a public impact, rather than be esoteric. The bad side? To make a "big splash" a scientist may push a study or article that doesn't exemplify good science.

People who constantly complain are harmful to your health

Moans, groans, and gripes release stress hormones in the brain.

Photo credit: Getty Images / Stringer

Could you give up complaining for a whole month? That's the crux of this interesting piece by Jessica Hullinger over at Fast Company. Hullinger explores the reasons why humans are so predisposed to griping and why, despite these predispositions, we should all try to complain less. As for no complaining for a month, that was the goal for people enrolled in the Complaint Restraint project.

Participants sought to go the entirety of February without so much as a moan, groan, or bellyache.

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NASA and ESA team up for historic planetary defense test

Two space agencies plan missions to deflect an asteroid.

ESA's Hera mission above asteroid 65803 Didymos. Credit: ESA/
Surprising Science
  • NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) are working together on missions to a binary asteroid system.
  • The DART and Hera missions will attempt to deflect and study the asteroid Didymoon.
  • A planetary defense system is important in preventing large-scale catastrophes.
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