COLLISIONS IN SPACE AND UNDER THE SEA
a sense of proprtion please
FEB 17 2009
Within a short interval we hear of two expensive collisions - one in
space, the other deep in the Atlanti ocean. There is a rumble of
political outrage about the latter but little comparable concern about
the first. Yet the collision between UK and French nuclear armed
submarines, the first such event in 40 years of patrols, is if anything
evidence of success in their technology of stealth when travelling very
slowly, while the accident in space between an Iridium communications
satelllite and an aged, out of service piece of Russian military
hardware is a serious failure with incalculable consequences.
I use the word incalculable advisedly as the the two space vehicles,
whose presence was not secret and supposedly the object of constant,
automated tracking to avoid such an accident, will have given rise to a
collection of objects which will now pose a much more complex and
difficult risk to assess and counter. Political activism would be
useful indeed if it drew the attention of politicians to the need to
fund and hold to high standards the operators and guardians.of our
activities in the orbital space around our planet on which we now,
without a doubt, depend for the maintenance and management of planetary
affairs and our very survival.
The operators of the two submarines will have learned an important
lesson, but the risk to the humanity of two such vehicles travelling
extremely slowly (the only way they could be mutually indetectable) was
nil. The fact that they were in the same area was presumablly not
completely a matter of chance, but even of it was (the odds against
that being near to winning the lottery) the significance of risk is
scacely more or less.
The aim of the major nuclear powers is to achieve nuclear arms
reduction with a probable final goal of a single, internationally held
nuclear deterrent, to keep the technology in the hands of accountable
authorities, at some date in the future. In the mean time, to achive
this end, unilateral disarmament must be limited to those who do not
wish to work for multilateral disarmament.
It is time to ram the point home.
Climate Control is what we must aim
for, however difficult. It will only come about when the situation
forces it, but mastery of Earth Orbit is a sine qua non. At the moment,
we keep the space-station from destruction by moving it out of the way
of space debris. This time, there was not enough warning. It survived
SEPTEMBER 2nd 2011
the US have warned Nasa that the amount of so-called space junk
orbiting Earth is at tipping point.
It seems there is a problem here in assigning responsibility for (a)
recognising the problem and (b) doing something about it.
We have the entire planet's wealth and expertise at our disposal, but
no world government, just the good old United Nations Organisation and
its powerless Secretary General, which has no command and control
authority beyond administrative functions and directing funds that have
already been given approval and allocated to areas of action. In what
we loosely call 'Space' there is cooperation on specific projects but
in general the environment is still competitive. It is a game of
cherry-picking. Well, unless we get together and clean this mess up
there will be no more cherries to pick, let alone proper work to be
at acceptable risk.