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Japan to Clear Space Junk With a Giant Whip and a Giant Ship

Dec 16, 2016 11:00 AM EST
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It seems it's Japan's turn to tackle the problem of junk around the Earth. Its solution? It wants to use a giant electric whip on a cargo ship and whip everything away. Seems crazy? Possibly. But some think it makes sense.

According to Popular Mechanics, the cargo ship will be equipped with what is called an electrodynamic tether, or an EDT. It was made with the help of 106-year-old fishing net company Nitto Seimo.

The Japanese space program, JAXA, wants to launch EDT as a "promising candidate to de-orbit debris objects at a low cost."

According to NPR, a press release said JAXA wants to clean up space junk as it is needed to "preserve the outer space environment for future generations."

The spacecraft Kounotori 6 will be deploying the 2,296-foot tether in outer space. The Kounotori 6 will also have an electron emitter aboard. The electrons released will be collected by an uninsulated section of the tether, as majority of it is insulated with aluminum.

According to BBC, there will also be a 44-pound counterweight within Kounotori 6 as well. This can make sure the unspooling tether will not be space junk itself. 

It can be remembered that much of space junk in outer space is composed of things such as old satellites, gloves, and toolkits that were accidentally dropped by astronauts. This means despite the "views" we get of a lush blue planet, the Earth is actually polluted on the outside as well.

The EDT will work as a "broom" of sorts. It's longer than six football fields and will "sweep" at space junk. It will slow them down and redirect it to Earth, where it will burn up on re-entry. The tail will also be able to pull and grab large pieces of junk.

JAXA hopes to be able to use this junk collection system more regularly by the middle of the next decade.  

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