In a fascinating use of time-tested technology to address uniquely modern problems, Japanese space agency JAXA is teaming up with Japanese fishing net maker Nitto Seimo to haul in some of the 100,000-plus objects of space junk orbiting the planet. A JAXA satellite will deploy and release a kilometers-wide net made by Nitto Seimo of ultra-thin triple layered metal threads. The net will gradually be drawn into Earth’s magnetic field and burned up along with the abandoned satellites, engine parts and other litter it’s collected.
Nitto Seimo is a century-old Japanese company that pioneered super-strong knotless fishing nets. Japan’s powerful fishing traditions clearly inform its approach to the space junk problem. The U.S., meanwhile, is proposing a satellite rigged with hundreds of butterfly-style nets that would hurl their catch toward the South Pacific, where it wouldn’t cause any damage. The satellite and nets could be reused. The great thing about a big problem is that it frees you to try multiple solutions at the same time.
Lead image: European Space Agency