Pentagon: Space junk could knock out your cell phone

As if AT&T and friends don't have enough problems, the Pentagon says space debris could cause a chain reaction and halt terrestrial communications.

You have probably become used to dropped calls. It is a fact of life, like sofas that won't stay clean and bankers who won't be reasonable.

I would, however, like to warn you that there might soon be a new reason for your conversations about bars, cars, and Mars to be rudely curtailed. Yes, even if you have a Verizon iPhone 4.

You see, space debris might have simply smacked into your Verizon satellite, rendering it just another exploding piece of metal.

I am passing this along from the Telegraph, which passed it along from the Pentagon.

This information has apparently been bouncing around for a little while, thanks to the U.S. Defense Department's interim Space Posture Review. And yet no one is sure what can be done about it.

What's going on up there could spoil our fun down here. CC Raven Vasquez/Flickr

The Telegraph quotes Bharath Gopalaswamy, who sits at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute and behaves like a rocket scientist, as saying that there are, as you read this, 370,000 pieces of space junk floating in an area between 490 and 620 miles above us.

In that same area, there are only 1,100 satellites.

So a swift calculation suggests the area might appear a little like the Long Island Expressway on a Friday night, where a mere single figure percentage of drivers are following highway rules.

All this junk is apparently made up of satellites that have had their day and split apart, rockets that have been thrust out to pasture, bits of missiles, debris from space missions, and, who knows, a couple of characters from "Space Jam."

Just one little collision might knock out not only your cell phone conversations but also, perhaps, even your reality TV pleasure or your closest family dependent--yes, your GPS.

The most troubling aspect of all this is that it seems very hard to control.

Authorities are begging those who send things up into space not to litter. But the situation doesn't appear all that easy to police--which risks a doomsday scenario, a sort of multiple fender bender called by the scientists an "uncontrolled chain reaction," with which any interstellar AAA will not be able to cope.

Space, it seems, may be the final frontier for annoying, destructive garbage.

 

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