In the unglamorous world of space garbage removal, an inspiring and exciting face reported dire news to the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA). Astrophysicist and science icon Neil deGrasse Tyson told the committee of their latest crisis: that United States satellite USA-266 had been disconnected from communication by unknown causes and was on a direct collision course with partner satellite USA-248. This rogue satellite could prove disastrous if it indeed collided with USA-248 as it would take out a key satellite needed for the collection of critical GPS information that affects nearly every facet of the general population’s lives. “GPS boosts productivity across industries, from agriculture and construction to mining and surveying. It saves lives by preventing air traffic collisions, speeds the delivery of emergency services and disaster relief” Tyson reminded the committee via video, setting a somber mood within the group.
The committee, which had succeeded in merging a large number of similar working papers into two distinct blocs, was forced to revise the papers to address the problem of space debris at the mid-level orbit. “It is clear we have been addressing the wrong level of orbit” a delegate from Japan asserted during moderated caucus, adding that his bloc would be “immediately integrating” solutions to the crisis into their working paper as well as provisions to prevent further mid-level debris disasters. A delegate from Brazil passionately argued for the “need for an emergency response system” and delegates from Somalia “urged nations to work together”.
When interviewed about their respective position papers, representatives from Brazil and the Democratic Republic of Congo were happy to point out the major points of their papers and their respective strengths. The new “Rainbow Coalition” composed of former red, green, orange, and yellow draft resolutions explained that their primary goal when crafting their resolution was including all nations, large and small, and space programs of all size. They explained the role that smaller nations would play by providing labor, research, and tech development with larger nations contributing more monetary funding. Brazil also explained that their resolution focused on investment of new technology and the limiting the activity of space launches to reduce future space debris and a potential emergency response program to prepare citizens should space debris exit near orbit and enter the Earth’s atmosphere with the possibility of colliding with the earth. Such precautions would minimize human loss of life in the event of a crisis.
The Black and Blue block explained that while their bloc had many similar ideas to that of the Rainbow Coalition, the main problem they had with the Coalition’s draft resolution was their dependence on donations from participating countries. The bloc also disagreed with the Rainbow Coalitions formation of a sub-committee within the bloc. The representative from the Democratic Republic of the Congo explained the bloc’s STEP program. The acronym described the four step plan composed of: standardization of data concerning tracking and monitoring in the form of an accessible database by all participating countries, transparency on the part of all countries regarding the number and positions of satellites, enforcement of all rules and suggestions by holding countries accountable for the space debris they collect and fail to remove, and prevention of future crises by creating guidelines that while not mandatory, would be heavily recommended. The delegate from Congo expressed the blocs to foster space development and exploration while limiting launching only what really needed to enter either near or mid earth orbit. The delegate cited the fact that 30% of space junk originated from useless parts of a launch, for example launch pads that don’t need to leave the ground and could be minimize space debris.
Throughout the crisis the delegation seemed unsure what to focus on: the fact that Neil deGrasse Tyson delivered them a personalized (if dire) message, or the impending crisis that the world and communication system could be facing. With their eyes set on perfecting draft resolutions and passing the best one available to the committee, the group is sure to maintain their focus as they reach the homestretch of their drafting and debating.