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More and more waste in space: who’s going to clear up?

We are launching more and more satellites and space is filling up as a result. Currently around 100 million pieces of space debris are floating around Earth. So who’s going to clear it up?

Tanja Masson-Zwaan

The waste floating around in space is mainly composed of pieces of debris and small parts of obsolete satellites and rockets. These pieces of debris are racing through the universe at around 7 kilometres a second.  

It is obvious who is responsible for the waste, Assistant Professor Tanja Masson-Zwaan says in Dutch TV programme Tegenlicht. 'Space debris remains the property of the state or enterprise that launched the satellite. But currently no rules exist that oblige the responsible party to clear up the waste in space. So for sixty years now, we have been launching all sorts of items into space without clearing up the waste afterwards.’

Masson-Zwaan believes that whoever causes the waste, should clear it up. ‘I think we need to shift towards a principle in which the polluter pays. This is how it is done in international law. We have to clear up our own mess. And that is how it should be in space too.'

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