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The White House wants to clean up space

Illustration by Kate Walker

The White House wants to clean up space


The Future. The White House doesn’t want space to turn into a junkyard, so it released a plan to clean up the orbit to protect it from spacecraft collisions. With debris flying around Earth at 17,000 miles per hour — and potentially multiplying upon collision mid-orbit — space could become treacherous to navigate if Congress doesn’t approve the plan. That spells bad news for the coming wave of commercial flights to the stars.

Cosmic service
Per Axios, The White House released an “implementation plan” that details how the Biden administration wants to “track, remediate and mitigate debris in orbit.”

  • It details which agencies are responsible for different aspects of the plan and how much funding is needed from Congress to get started.
  • The plan builds on the promises of The White House’s updated “United States Space Priorities Framework,” released in December.
  • It also could restart a debate about how long space debris should be allowed to orbit Earth — the unofficial international guideline of 25 years is “too lax,” according to scientists.

Unfortunately, the one thing the plan doesn’t explicitly include is actual missions to go up to orbit and pick up trash — something that Europe and Japan are already doing. But, don’t be surprised if the U.S. decides to delegate that responsibility to a private company, like Steve Wozniak’s Privateer.

Implementing a plan like this may come with a ticking clock, as experts warn that falling debris — like the Chinese rocket that fell last month — could increase as the space industry heats up.

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