February 19, 2012

To Infinity and Beyond! (Annals of Childish Behavior™, continued)

Refusing to clean up after ourselves is a childish behavior that has polluted not only the planet but also outer space.

The New York Times reports today that so many pieces of space junk now surround the earth – the Air Force currently tracks 20,000 of them, some as large as a Greyhound bus – that low-Earth orbits will eventually have to be abandoned if some method of cleaning up the mess isn't found.

“It will be a huge risk for an astronaut to go to space,” said John L. Junkins, a professor of aerospace engineering at Texas A&M University, adding: “No one will insure a space launch.”

The Times article includes a link to a paper that provides a more technical description of what scientists call "the Kessler Syndrome," named for the former head of NASA's office of space debris. That paper concludes, "As is true for many environmental problems, the control of the orbital debris environment may initially be expensive, but failure to control leads to disaster in the long-term."

Is modern culture being overwhelmed by an epidemic of childishness? JosĂ© Ortega y Gasset, writing in 1930, thought so. Annals of Childish Behavior™ chronicles contemporary examples of that epidemic. The childish citizen, Ortega said, puts "no limit on caprice" and behaves as if "everything is permitted to him and that he has no obligations."

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