In news–Fragments of suspected debris from space fell in three locations in Gujarat’s Anand district Bhalej, Khambholaj, and Rampura recently.
- The first large, black metal ball, weighing around five kg, fell in Bhalej, and thereafter in Khambholaj and Rampura — all located within 15 kilometers from each other.
- The meteorite- like objects were suspected to be satellite debris.
- According to reports, a similar incident had happened in Maharashtra in April 2022 after a purported “meteorite” was seen in the sky.
- The noise sounded like an aeroplane and was followed by a big explosion. Later it was found that the burnt objects were fragments of a satellite launched in New Zealand.
- Similar incidents were reported in January 2016 in Yen Bai in Vietnam, Spain, Australia, Africa, and Turkey.
What are space debris?
- Space debris or orbital debris, also called space junk and space waste, are the objects in orbit around Earth created by man that no longer serve any useful purpose.
- Space debris encompasses both natural meteoroid and artificial (human-made) orbital debris.
- Meteoroids are in orbit about the sun, while most artificial debris is in orbit about the Earth (hence the term “orbital” debris).
- Orbital debris includes nonfunctional spacecraft, abandoned launch vehicle stages, mission-related debris, and fragmentation debris.
- According to NASA, there are approximately 23,000 pieces of debris larger than a softball orbiting the Earth.
- They travel at speeds up to 17,500 mph, fast enough for a relatively small piece of orbital debris to damage a satellite or a spacecraft.
Laws governing space junk-
- The United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space has paid particular attention to the issue of preventing and minimizing the creation of space debris.
- Every year, States and organizations exchange information on their space debris research at the Committee’s Scientific and Technical Subcommittee.
- One important result of those discussions has been a set of Space Debris Mitigation Guidelines, which were endorsed by the General Assembly in 2007.
- The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) works to promote international cooperation in the peaceful use and exploration of space, and in the utilisation of space science and technology for sustainable economic and social development.
- Several multilateral treaties have been adopted by the United Nations General Assembly to enable the orderly conduct of activities in outer space.
- The cornerstone of these governance instruments is the Outer Space Treaty of 1967.
- Four other treaties were adopted to reinforce the framework set by the Outer Space Treaty. They are-
- The Rescue Agreement of 1968 requires States to assist an astronaut in case of accident, distress, emergency or unintended landing.
- The Liability Convention of 1972 establishes the standards of liability for damage caused by space objects.
- The Registration Convention of 1975 requires States to register all objects launched into outer space with the United Nations.
- The Moon Agreement of 1979 elaborates on the provisions of the Outer Space Treaty as they apply to the Moon and other celestial bodies.
Further reading: https://journalsofindia.com/project-netra-2/