By D. Westphalen
On Monday, the 15th of November, ROSCOSMOS, the Russian Space Agency, launched a new anti-satellite missile to one of its Soviet-era satellites, Kosmos-1408. The test was deemed successful for Russia as their missile effectively destroyed their satellite. However, the collision led to the formation of thousands of pieces of debris. Not only did this add to the concerning contemporary issue of space pollution, but it also endangered the lives of astronauts on the International Space Station.
The International Space Station was set to pass through the cloud of debris formed by the Russian collision, forcing the crew of the ISS had to evacuate to their sealed off capsules to prepare for any disruption from the debris. Luckily, the debris did not hit the ISS and all crew members were able to return to work as per usual.
Although the missile strike didn’t put anyone’s life at risk, it caused serious implications; one of them being the addition to space pollution. Space pollution, also known as “space junk”, is the defunct machinery left in space by humans. Before 2010, there was only about 8,000 pieces of space junk in Earth’s orbit, however by July this year, there have already been discovered over 34,000 pieces of debris orbiting Earth, not counting the 1,500 pieces created by Russia’s missile strike in November. Earlier this year, the G-7 nations agreed that the world needed to set space junk standards to limit the worrying growth. However, Russia’s recent action worsened the problem, creating a lot of political turmoil regarding Russia’s sovereignty in space.
Besides adding on to the problem of space pollution, the USA’s State Department also claims that Russia’s missile strike was “reckless” and “irresponsible", as it will cause long lasting effects, similarly to China’s missile strike in 2007. Besides this, the French Minister of Defence, Florence Parly, accused Russia of being “space vandals” as they disrupted international peace. Many other countries have already called Russia out; however, they did not specifically infringe on any space regulation. On the other hand, the Russian government is also calling out the United States for its hypocrisy as they have also conducted various dangerous weapon tests.
Russia and the USA have been involved in a space race once before, in loom of the Cold War. Could there be another major conflict between these two superpowers?