The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA wants ideas on how to clean up low Earth orbit. At the moment, debris ranging from old satellites, rockets and bits broken off by meteoroids and other collisions presents a significant hazard to anything we put up there (it isn’t uncommon to have a debris alert during a shuttle mission to the International Space Station for example. The entire ISS sometimes needs shifting out of the way).
One idea is to give space a quick rinse by sending up a ball of water on a ballistic trajectory. The water, held together by its own surface tension, would absorb anything coming its way and bring it down (hopefully and assuming no blobs broke off and became hazards in their own right). DARPA would be grateful for others.
Meanwhile NASA is ruminating on its next set of prizes. The prizes are challenges set out to the private space industry of things they should try to reach for – lunar orbit or landing, low Earth orbit, quick trips to Saturn and back – ok maybe not the last one just yet, but you get the idea.
Ideas for Centenial Challenges, presently including things like robotic lunar excavation, super-efficient aircraft, reusable rocket-powered vehicles, wireless power transmission, super-strength materials and improved astronaut gloves, should be submitted by November 8th in order to be considered for 2010 launches. Ideas are solicited from organisations and individuals. Instructions on submission are here and further details are here.