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Secretary of State Hillary Clinton   (Source:
Hillary Clinton assures that the code of conduct will not keep the military busy or compromise national security

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced Tuesday that the United States will begin working on an international code of conduct for outer space with other nations around the world.

An international code of conduct would put concrete space-related rules in place for all participating nations. According to Clinton, the main threats that the rules would address are space junk and "irresponsible actors."

There are currently more than 500,000 pieces of space junk debris surrounding Earth, according to NASA, and about 22,000 of these pieces are as large as a softball. Only about 1,100 are active satellites. Space junk is the collection of objects created by humans that are left in orbit, but are no longer useful.

Clinton sees this space junk as potentially harmful, and for good reason. Just last month, a Siberian man escaped death as a Russian satellite fragment crashed right through his roof. The fragment was about the size of a 5 kg titanium ball.

In addition, Russa's Mars probe Phobos-Grunt finally crashed back to Earth on January 15 after floating around in space aimlessly for two months.

The new code of conduct announcement also addressed "irresponsible actors," which likely indirectly referred to China's space behavior back in 2007 when it destroyed a dead weather satellite with a rocket. In late 2011, the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC) released a report that warned the U.S. of China's plans to attack U.S. space defenses. This has since worried the U.S., and raised questions regarding the potential need for a space military.

"The threats to the space environment will increase as more nations and non-state actors develop and deploy counter-space systems," said the State Department's fact sheet. "Today, space systems and their supporting infrastructure face a range of man-made threats that may deny, degrade, deceive, disrupt or destroy assets."

The U.S. also noted that the European Union has developed a space code, which it has been working on for many years, but that the U.S. isn't quite ready to agree to it yet.

"A code of conduct will help maintain the long-term sustainability, safety, stability and security of space by establishing guidelines for the responsible use of space," said Clinton. "As we begin this work, the United States has made clear to our partners that we will not enter into a code of conduct that in any way constrains our national security-related activities in space or our ability to protect the United States and our allies."


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RE: Obscure comparison
By Solandri on 1/19/2012 1:06:16 PM , Rating: 2
It's a bad example, since the real danger isn't to people on the ground. The atmosphere burns up most space debris before it can hit the ground (or a person), and people just don't cover a significant fraction of the earth's surface for it to be a high risk.

The real danger is up in space. To be in orbit, you have to be moving at 7-10 km/sec. Any orbiting space junk is also moving at 7-10 km/sec, but in a different direction. If the two collide, the relative velocities and therefore kinetic energies are huge even for a small piece of debris.

At the rate we're producing orbiting junk, in 50-100 years we won't be able to put satellites or spacecraft in orbit with the expectation that they'll survive. This is a crater in one of the space shuttle's windows caused by an impact with a 0.2mm fleck of paint. It penetrated about halfway through the window's thickness.

This is the hole left in one of the shuttle's cargo bay doors after an impact with an unknown piece of space debris.

Both of these pieces of debris were way too small to be tracked by NORAD, so they're not included in the half million pieces of debris mentioned in the article.

RE: Obscure comparison
By The Raven on 1/19/2012 1:13:18 PM , Rating: 2
So what you are saying is that we can defend space from our enemies if we put enough junk up there, right?

RE: Obscure comparison
By PReiger99 on 1/19/2012 2:41:24 PM , Rating: 2
In the same line of thought, an enemy not as dependent on satellites could just detonate a missile loaded with small ball bearings and make the space unusable for quite some time.

RE: Obscure comparison
By UnauthorisedAccess on 1/19/2012 6:50:43 PM , Rating: 4
I, for one, welcome our new ball bearing overlords.

RE: Obscure comparison
By lightfoot on 1/19/2012 8:30:34 PM , Rating: 2
What if they are over bearing ball-lords??

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