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Japanese Space Junk Clean Up Mission Fails, Dangerous Debris Still Swirling Around Earth

An experimental mission conducted by the scientists at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) to clear out the rubbish from the Earth's Orbit has faced a setback.

On Feb. 5, HTV-6 — a Japanese cargo spacecraft — fell to Earth after it had delivered supplies to the International Space Station (ISS) and tried its hand at clearing space junk.

The HTV-6 plunged into the Pacific Ocean and a lot of space garbage was thrown into the Earth's atmosphere.

The experiment failed and it means that millions of space junk are still swirling around our planet. This hazardous rubbish could potentially be a serious threat for future space explorations.

The failure turned out to be an embarrassing situation for Tokyo. The Japanese scientists were aiming to bring all the garbage orbiting around the Earth into a lower orbit by testing an electrodynamic tether.

According to reports, the Kessler Syndrome, which is a runaway chain reaction of collision as shown in the film Gravity,  may hit the planet due to the mission failure.

The main aim of this experiment was to burn all the garbage harmlessly before it could crash into the planet.

The Proposed Plan

The plan was to get the Kountori 6 satellite to unfold the cable which was 700 meters long. The cable was made up of thin stainless steel and aluminum wire, which was supposed to be an extension of the cargo ship used to supply materials to the ISS astronauts.

The tether's top was to attach automatically to the space debris pieces like defunct satellites. The tether had an end mass which weighed nearly 48 lbs and its position could be altered by using force from the Earth's magnetic field, as well as an electric current generated. Once the tether has attached itself to the debris, the junk would be guided to a destructive re-entry in the Earth's atmosphere.

However, things did not go according to JAXA's plan and once the tether connected to the space junk, the debris responded in a negative manner. This resulted in the mission failing.

According to Koichi Inoue the lead researcher, due to some problems, the tether could not get released. The team expressed its disappointment since the mission had to be aborted without completing its goal.

The failure comes close on the heels of JAXA having to terminate a mission where it looked to deploy a mini rocket to send off a satellite to the orbit.

Photo: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center | Flickr 

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