The fault in our stars: Constellation mapping through events in time shows devastation caused by man in space
Under Lucky Stars, a company that makes custom-made star maps of constellations, has created star maps using key dates in history to visualize the amount of junk and debris in space at that time
Humans have always been fascinated with what lies beyond the earth. They have looked up at the heavens, enthralled at the stars and the nature of the objects often seen in the night sky. Space exploration had captured the minds of people, well before technological achievements made them physically possible. While pilots and scientists have always had vested interests in the cosmos, it has also been a constant creative inspiration for writers and artists. The interstellar has tickled people's fancy for centuries and perhaps also explains why it has become a common and persisting theme in literature and art. Scientific and technological advancements enabled the development of rockets and electronics in the 20th century, making it possible to send machines, animals and even people past the earth's atmosphere to explore outer space.
Humans have been sending objects into space since the 1950s, searching for answers to the timeless theories of outer space. Technological developments have gradually increased the number of space missions and as a result, roughly 500,000 man-made objects, including 2,000 satellites and over 22,000 larger pieces of space junk, have been orbiting the earth. It doesn't end there. Over the next few years, there are plans to launch thousands of objects more. Junk and debris consisting of objects both big and small have been taking up space in our skies and the accumulating number only poses a huge risk to space travel. It increases the chances of dangerous collisions, and by not clearing up the existing junk or restricting the number of launches, mankind may ruin the view of the night sky forever.
Under Lucky Stars has shared new designs, revealing the devastating impact of space exploration by humans over time. A company that makes custom-made star maps of constellations, it has created star maps using key dates in history to visualize the amount of junk and debris in space at that time, according to their data. This campaign comes following the #SaveOurStars campaign launched by Under Lucky Stars earlier this year. It also reveals what the view of our night sky could look like in the future if we don't make efforts to clear up our space junk. "Since the 1960s and more notably the first moon landing, public interest in space exploration has continued to grow by excess. Humans are inquisitive, and as a race, we're keen to learn more about how and when we came to be, including the atmosphere around us. But this intrigue has come at a cost," said Zoltan Toth-Czifra, founder of Under Lucky Stars.
"Although necessary to explore time and space, the damage we are leaving behind is continuing to grow, which will eventually lead to damage beyond control. A few satellites may seem like nothing in the vast area of space, but the junk and debris left behind from space activities causes a number of problems, mainly the increased risk of collision," he added. "These designs highlight the impact mankind is having outside of our own planet earth and is a signal that we must clean up our act and monitor launches if we want to continue to explore our perimeters safely."
The Moon Landing - July 16, 1969, Florida USA
Space debris count: 1,000 to 2,000 pieces
One of the most iconic historical events and aeronautical achievements, the moon landing marked the beginning for the decades worth of space exploration that would follow. The official moon landing did not happen until 20 July 1969, but the US launched Apollo 11, four days prior. The mission occurred eight years after President John F Kennedy announced the national goal of landing a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s. As featured in the star chart above, the low amount of activity in space highlights just a few satellites launched at the time, with roughly 1,000 to 2,000 pieces of space debris.
The Launch of Facebook - February 4, 2004, Massachusetts USA
Space debris count: 8,000 pieces
The infamous social media website, Facebook began in 2004, while founder Mark Zuckerburg was still a student at Harvard University. Initially launched as an interactive platform to connect Harvard students, Facebook is by far the biggest social media website in the world with over 2.6 billion monthly active users. During this time the activity in space had multiplied twofold. Almost three-and-a-half decades of space exploration later, an approximate of 303 satellites were found to be in space in 2004, and more than 8,000 pieces of space debris.
The Brexit decision - June 23, 2016, London UK
Space debris count: 17,000 pieces
On June 23, 2016, the EU referendum culminated with the UK voting to leave the European Union, an event termed as "Brexit". The decision would come as a drastic change in the future for many. And while this development took place on the earth, things were also changing in the skies. By 2016, the number of satellites launched since the 1960s had spiked to 1,351, and more than 17,000 pieces of space junk littered the atmosphere.
Trump becomes President - January 20, 2017, Washington DC USA
Space debris count: 18,000 pieces
Businessman and television personality, Donald J Trump, succeeded Barack Obama to become the 45th President of the US in 2017. The public ceremony held on January 20 garnered an estimated crowd of 600,000 people. Meanwhile, there were 388 scheduled satellite launches noted during the year, increasing by 187% from the 135 pieces in 2016. This brought the total to 1,739.
SpaceX launches Falcon 9 - June 13, 2020, Florida USA
Space debris count: 22,000 pieces
Aerospace manufacturer and space transportation services company, SpaceX, announced this year that it would be sending thousands of satellites into low-orbit earth as part of their plan to achieve access-all-areas broadband internet supply. On June 13, the company launched Falcon 9, sending 50 more internet satellites into the orbit. So far more than 500 satellites have been launched by the company, but this was just to get the ball rolling. SpaceX aims to launch some 1,600 orbiting routers at the end of 2020. In total, SpaceX has plans to launch nearly 12,000 satellites. At the moment, there are roughly 22,000 pieces of space debris orbiting the earth.
The Future - 2030
Predicted space debris count: 50,000 pieces
Ten years on from the last launch by SpaceX, the fate of the cosmos looks bleak. At the rate that the number of satellites and items of space junk is increasing every decade, there could be an estimated 50,000 satellites and pieces of debris in space by 2030. This could potentially jeopardize our view of the night sky forever, as the number of satellites may go on to possibly outweigh the number of stars that a human eye can grasp.