On May 8, a piece of space junk from a Chinese rocket fell uncontrolled back to Earth and landed in the Indian Ocean near the Maldives. A year ago, in May, another Chinese rocket met the same fate when it plummeted out of control into the waters off the West African coast. No one knew when or where either of these pieces of space junk was going to hit, so it was a relief when neither crashed on land or injured anyone.
Space debris is any non-functional, human-made object in space. As a professor of space and society focused on space governance, I've noticed that there are three questions the public always asks when falling space debris gets into the news. Could this have been prevented? What would have happened if there was damage? And how will new commercial companies be regulated as space activities and launches increase exponentially?
We have been experiencing some problems with subscriber log-ins and apologise for the inconvenience caused. Until we resolve the issues, subscribers need not log in to access ST Digital articles. But a log-in is still required for our PDFs.