The history of our solar system is a history of collisions. Massive, world-shattering collisions. Evidence of these collisions rains down on us every day in the form of meteorites—rocks hurled into space when massive asteroids crash into each other. For the first time, researchers have examined some of the rocky relics of a particularly colossal crash that occurred 466 million years ago. The results, published in Nature Astronomy, show that some of the rarest meteorites of the modern world were once commonplace, making up more than a third of the total space debris.
The International Space Station is set to start testing its first expandable habitat. Tomorrow, the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) will swell to its full size, beginning a two-year stint at the ISS. During this time, astronauts will measure how well BEAM holds up against space debris, radiation and temperature swings. Lightweight expandable habitats, made from aluminum and fabric, might provide a home for astronauts on future deep space missions.
Another week, another scheme to clean up our bourgeoning space debris problem. This one, like many before it, calls for a powerful ground-based laser to remove orbital debris from low earth orbit. Using high-powered laser pulses fired from the ground, the system would create a small plasma jet emanating from the piece of junk itself, essentially turning each piece of debris into its own laser-powered rocket that would remove itself from orbit.
Rarely does a week pass without some concern about space debris, whether it's falling to Earth or threatening the International Space Station. Plenty of private companies and government agencies have proposed solutions for this problem, from giant space nets to ground-based lasers that would push debris out of orbit. Here's one we have not seen before: A sticky robot arm that works like a mechanical tractor beam. It could be used to reach out and grab space debris of any shape or size - and for other purposes, like servicing the ISS.