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Japan’s mission to clean up ‘space junk’ misses the mark (Relevant for GS Prelims and Mains III)

An experimental Japanese mission to clear ‘space junk’ from the Earth’s orbit has ended in failure, in an embarrassment for Tokyo.

Importance of Mission
Over 100 million pieces of garbage are thought to be whizzing around the planet, including cast-off equipment from old satellites and bits of rocket, which experts say could pose risks for future space exploration.

About the Mission
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) launched into orbit a space junk collector to clean up space debris. Kounotori, which means stork in Japanese, blasted off from the southern Japanese island onboard an H-IIB rocket.

The junk collector consists of a mesh material created by the 106-year-old Japanese fishing net manufacturer Nitto Seimo. The so-called electrodynamic tether is made from thin wires of stainless steel and aluminum, which generates electricity as it passes Earth's magnetic field to slow the debris and pull it into a lower orbit. The garbage will eventually enter the Earth's atmosphere, burning up without harming anyone on Earth.

The experiment was part of an international effort to safeguard astronauts, space stations, satellites and other infrastructures against space debris, which could travel up to 17,500 miles an hour.



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