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Scientists to use ‘harpoon’ to reel in dangerous space debris

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Faced with the very 21st century problem of space debris – the bits and pieces from thousands of space missions that litter Earth’s orbit – scientists are turning to stone age technology: the harpoon.

When we think about pollution, we usually do not think further than our own planetary boundaries. But mankind is not only polluting the Earth’s atmosphere, we’re polluting its orbit, too.

Only a small percentage of the manmade objects in space are functioning satellites. Scientists say that there are more than 300,000 pieces of debris in space, including screws and bolts, large parts of rockets, spatulas and gloves.

This growing halo of junk is a serious threat to functioning satellites and future space missions, as the risk of collisions increase. In orbit, even a 1cm object can be travelling so fast that a collision could be devastating.

There has already been four major collisions in low Earth orbit. The most serious was in 2009, when an Iridium Communications satellite collided with a defunct Russian Space Forces satellite at over 25,000 miles per hour. 

Scientists also fear that a large collision could set off a chain reaction, creating many more pieces of debris in a self-sustaining cycle. This kind of threat was recently portrayed in the 2013 film Gravity.

The loss of satellites caused in such an event would also have a massive impact on the global economy.

Heiner Klinkrad, head of the European Space Agency’s (ESA) space debris office, said in 2013, “Our understanding of the growing space debris problem can be compared with our understanding of the need to address Earth’s changing climate some 20 years ago. 

“While measures against further debris creation and actively deorbiting defunct satellites are technically demanding and potentially costly, there is no alternative to protect space as a valuable resource for our critical satellite infrastructure.

Experts say that the only way to reduce the risk is to remove large items such as disused satellites and pieces of rockets from lower orbits. To do this, experts are now suggesting we use a tool invented in Palaeolithic times. 

A prototype harpoon has been tested by Airbus Defence and Space at its facilities in Stevenage, ahead of the ESA’s planned 2021 e.DeOrbit mission. 

The autonomously controlled flight will identify large objects at between 800-1,000 km altitude, securing debris before dragging it down to be burnt-up entering the Earth’s atmosphere. 

The ESA has considered many different mechanisms, from throw nets to robotic arms, but harpoons can reel in targets of any attitude and shape, and do not require close operations.

Now, the space agency plans to build and test a prototype harpoon, in the hope of using it for the crucial mission. The ESA has called for bidders to compete for the project contract.

An even more seemingly outlandish idea has recently been put forward by scientists in Australia, who proposed using advanced laser technology to “zap” debris down to Earth.

Photo: keithfiore via Flickr

Further reading:

Space debris to be cleared using lasers, Australian scientists say

Space junk: the abuse of the abyss

 

Environment

4 Common Items That Can be Reused Again and Again

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reuse reduce recycle plastic bottles etc
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Vanatchanan | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/vanatchanan%20buahom

As a society we are getting much better at taking our obligations to the world and environment around us more seriously. This is undoubtedly a good thing! The effects of climate change are beginning to manifest across the world, and this is turning the issue from an abstract threat into a very real danger. Trying to introduce some greener, more eco-friendly practices into your life isn’t just a great way of doing something beneficial for society and the world around you. It is a wonderful way of engaging positively with the world and carries with it numerous psychological benefits.

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Being a greener, more ecologically friendly person doesn’t require any dramatic life changes. Breaking or making a few small habits is all it takes to make your life a greener one. In this article we look at one of the easiest, yet most effective green practices to get into: reusing everyday items.

Jars and Containers

Glass and metal are widely recycled, and recycling is a good thing! However, consider whether any containers you buy, whether it’s a tub of ice cream or a jar of coffee, can be washed out and reused for something else. Mason jars, for example, can be used to store homemade pasta sauce and can be washed for future use. Once you start thinking about it, you will find endless opportunities to reuse your old containers.

Soda Bottles

An ice-cold soda is a wonderful treat on a hot day, but buying soda can get expensive, and the manufacturing and distribution of the drinks themselves isn’t great for the environment. However, by holding on to your old soda bottles and repurposing them as water bottles, you can save money on drinks, or use them to measure out water for your garden.

Plastic Bags

Most of the time groceries come in paper bags, which are better for the environment than the plastic alternatives, but they are less durable and thus harder to reuse. Whenever the store places your items in a plastic bag, hang onto it so you can reuse the bags again. If you want to take it one step further, consider looking into buying some personalized recycled bags. These bags are designed to last for a long time and are made of recycled materials. They look striking and unique, they’ll turn heads, and maybe even attitudes!

Seeds

If you’re a keen gardener, then you will already probably know how to reseed your plants in order to ensure a fresh crop after each plant’s lifecycle. If you have space in your garden, or haven’t yet tried your hand at gardening, then consider planting a small vegetable plot. Growing your own veggies means that you’ll be helping to cut back on the emissions generated by their transport and production. The best part about growing your own food in this way is that, by harvesting properly and saving the seeds, you can be set up with fresh vegetables for life!

Reusing and recycling common household items is an easy way to make your world a little bit greener. Once you start looking for these opportunities you’ll realize that they’re everywhere!

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Environment

These 5 Green Office Mistakes Are Costing You Money

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eco-friendly green offices
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Stokkete | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/cyano

The sudden interest in green business is very encouraging. According to recent reports, 42% of all companies have rated sustainability as an important element of their business. Unfortunately, the focus on sustainability will only last if companies can find ways to use it to boost their ROI.

Many businesses get so caught up in being socially conscious that they hope the financial aspect of it takes care of itself. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to go green and boost your net income at the same time.

Here are some important mistakes that you will want to avoid.

Only implementing sustainability on micro-scale

The biggest reason that brands are going green is to improve their optics with their customers. Too many businesses are making very minor changes, such as processing paperwork online and calling themselves green.

Customers have become wary of these types of companies. If you want to earn their business, you are going to need to go all the way. Bring in a green business consultant and make every feasible change to demonstrate that you are a green organization from top to bottom.

Not prioritizing investments by long-term ROI

It isn’t realistic to build an entirely green organization overnight. You will need to allocate your capital wisely.

Before investing in any green assets or services, you should always conduct a long-term cost benefit analysis. The initial investment for some green services may be over $20,000. If they don’t shave your cost by at least $3,000 a year, they probably aren’t worth the investment.

Determine which green investments will have the best pay off over the next 10 years. Make these investments before anything else. Then compare your options within each of those categories.

Implementing green changes without a plan

Effective, long-term planning is the key to business success. This principle needs to be applied to green organizations as well.

Before implementing a green strategy, you must answer the following questions:

  • How will I communicate my green business philosophy to my customers?
  • How will running a green business affect my revenue stream?
  • How will adopting green business strategies change my monthly expenses? Will they increase or decrease them?
  • How will my company finance green upgrades and other investments?

The biggest mistake that too many green businesses make is being overly optimistic with these forecasts. Take the time to collect objective data and make your decisions accordingly. This will help you run a much more profitable green business.

Not considering the benefits of green printing

Too many companies believe that going paperless is the only way to run a green organization. Unfortunately, going 100% paperless it’s not feasible for most companies.

Rather than aim for an unrealistic goal, consider the option of using a more environmentally friendly printer. It won’t be perfect, but it will be better than the alternative.

According to experts from Doranix, environmental printers have several benefits:

  • They can process paper that has been completely recycled.
  • They consume less energy than traditional printers.
  • They use ink that is more environmentally friendly.

You want to take a look at different green printers and compare them. You’ll find that some will meet your needs as a green business.

Poorly communicating your green business strategy to customers

Brand positioning doesn’t happen on its own. If you want to run a successful green business, you must communicate your message to customers as clearly as possible. You must also avoid the appearance that you are patronizing them.

The best approach is to be clear when you were first making the change. I’ll make an announcement about your company‘s commitment to sustainability.

You also want to reinforce this message overtime by using green labels on all of your products. You don’t have to be blatant with your messaging at this stage. Simply provide a small, daily reminder on your products and invoices.

Finally, it is a good idea to participate in green business seminars and other events. If your community has a local Green Chamber of Commerce, you should consider joining as well.

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