So starting now, all satellites will have to fall out of orbit on their own.
Everything from student-project satellites to the New Horizons probe meandering through the Kuiper Belt depends on it to stay oriented.
An ultraprecise atomic clock on Earth times how long it takes for a signal to get from the network to a spacecraft and back, and navigators use that to determine the craft’s position.
Composite materials like exotic-metal alloys and fibered sheets could reduce the weight; combine that with more efficient, more powerful fuel mixtures and you get a bigger bang for your booster. “As the number of flights increases, economies of scale kick in,” says Les Johnson, a technical assistant at NASA’s Advanced Concepts Office.
“That’s the key to getting the cost to drop dramatically.” Space X’s Falcon 9, for example, was designed to relaunch time and again. problem: propulsion Hurtling through space is easy. The larger an object’s mass, the more force it takes to move it—and rockets are kind of massive. But before you break into outer space, a rogue bit of broke-ass satellite comes from out of nowhere and caps your second-stage fuel tank. This is the problem of space debris, and it’s very real.
Whipple shields—layers of metal and Kevlar—can protect against the bitsy pieces, but nothing can save you from a whole satellite. Mission control avoids dangerous paths, but tracking isn’t perfect.
Pulling the sats out of orbit isn’t realistic—it would take a whole mission to capture just one.
Sure, radio waves travel at light speed, but transmissions to deep space still take hours.
And the stars can tell you where to go, but they’re too distant to tell you where you are.
And when they came to the sea, they built boats and sailed tremendous distances to islands they could not have known were there. Probably for the same reason we look up at the moon and the stars and say, “What’s up there? Maybe we could go there.” Because it’s something human beings do.
Space is, of course, infinitely more hostile to human life than the surface of the sea; escaping Earth’s gravity entails a good deal more work and expense than shoving off from the shore.