Latest 3D Omnimax film explores crisis of space debris
The Hong Kong Space Museum's latest 3D Omnimax film, "Space Junk 3D", to be screened from January 1 until June 30, will take the audience on a journey into space around Earth, revealing how space debris endangers human safety and how scientists are trying to deal with the crisis.
Modern civilisation relies heavily on satellites for many conveniences of 21st century life, including services such as GPS, weather forecasts, financial trading, satellite TV and so on. The alarming fact is that we have created a minefield in space and are "treading" on it everyday.
Since the dawn of the Space Age in 1957, thousands of artificial satellites have been launched and only around 1,000 are still in operation. Through these years, many space vehicles were also launched with astronauts on board, such as Apollo space crafts, Skylab, Soyuz and space shuttles, to carry out various missions. These missions have left behind huge amounts of debris including bolts, connecting rings, rocket parts, left-over fuel, and more. Together with defunct satellites they have created an orbiting junkyard of unwanted space debris.
The United States' Space Surveillance Network is responsible for detecting, tracking, cataloguing and identifying any space debris which exceeds 10cm in length. More than 21,000 pieces of man-made space junk of this type are now orbiting the Earth. Each of these pieces of debris whizzes around in its own orbit at speeds of about 10 kilometres a second - more than six times faster than a speeding bullet. The kinetic energy at that speed is about 36 times that of an equivalent mass of TNT.
The possible tragic consequences of this orbiting debris were identified by Donald Kessler, ex-head of NASA's Orbital Debris Office, giving rise to "The Kessler Syndrome". Kessler predicted that random collisions among these man-made objects would produce debris more dangerous than natural meteoroids in space. The resulting chain reaction could create clouds of debris, hinder space exploration, and be a hazard to satellites and manned spacecraft, seriously affecting our daily lives. In 2009 two satellites belonging to Russia and the United States, namely Cosmos 2251 and Iridium 33, collided in orbit. This was the first time that two satellites had collided, producing more than 2,000 pieces of debris.
Space debris has thus become an environmental pollution problem common to all countries on Earth, and scientists are developing innovations to help clean it up. One fascinating concept uses a special "space fishing net" to capture debris in orbit. Scientists have also conceived building a recycling plant in space to recycle collected debris into new spare parts. It is hoped that space-based recycling could one day become a reality, and a new, greener era of space exploration could then be opened up.
The 37-minute Sky Show "Space Junk 3D" will be screened daily at 2.40pm and 6.10pm at the museum's Stanley Ho Space Theatre. There will be an additional screening at 11.10am on Sundays and public holidays. The museum is closed on Tuesdays (except public holidays) and on the first two days of the Chinese New Year. On Chinese New Year's Eve it will close at 5pm.
Tickets are available at the Hong Kong Space Museum Box Office and at all URBTIX outlets for $24 (front stalls) and $32 (stalls). Full-time students, senior citizens aged 60 or above and people with disabilities are eligible for a half-price concession. For further information about "Space Junk 3D", please visit the website at www.lcsd.gov.hk/CE/Museum/Space/Programs/Omnimax/SpaceJunk3D/e_SpaceJunk3D.htm .
The Hong Kong Space Museum is located at 10 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon. For enquiries, call 2721 0226.
Ends/Friday, December 28, 2012
Issued at HKT 11:35
"Space Junk 3D" introduces some of the innovative methods conceived by scientists to clean up space. One interesting idea uses a specially made "space fishing net" (pictured) to capture debris in orbit. (©2011. All rights reserved. Space Junk 3D, LLC)
Picture shows a recycling plant in space featured in "Space Junk 3D". It has been conceived by scientists to recycle collected debris into new spare parts. (©2011. All rights reserved. Space Junk 3D, LLC)