After Russia tested an anti-satellite weapon on a Soviet-era satellite, the West is concerned about what this kind of action could mean for the future of space exploration.
On Nov. 15, the astronauts on the International Space Station received an order to shelter in the craft in case of a collision. Russia had just blown up the old satellite, putting a cloud of debris in the orbit of the ISS, National Geographic reported.
Russia’s testing of its new weapon raised immediate questions.
“Even though we know they have this capability, we were shocked that they chose to test it as they did,” said Kaitlyn Johnson, deputy director of the Aerospace Security Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“The things rumbling around my mind are: Why now? What is this tied to? What message are they trying to send? And why that specific satellite?” she added.
The U.S. State Department issued a scathing statement in response to the incident.
“Russia’s dangerous and irresponsible behavior jeopardizes the long term sustainability of our space and clearly demonstrates that Russia’s claims of opposing the weapons and weaponization of space are disingenuous and hypocritical,” spokesman Ned Price said, according to Breaking Defense.
The overarching issue is how this irresponsible action could affect space travel in the future.
One destroyed satellite created about 1,500 pieces of space debris that endangered the ISS. Imagine if the Russians had decided to take out a few more.
That is exactly what people are worried about now, especially since a Russian state-owned television network said the anti-satellite weapon, called “Star Warrior,” could destroy dozens of Western satellites and render NATO’s missiles useless, The Sun reported.
Russian Channel One host Dmitry Kiselyov — who has been called President Vladimir Putin’s mouthpiece and “propagandist-in-chief” — claimed the satellite strike was a warning to the West.
“That was the completion of tests of Russia’s anti-satellite system. … It means that if NATO crosses our red line, it risks losing all 32 of its GPS satellites at once,” Kiselyov said.
The loss of NATO’s satellites would “blind all their missiles, planes and ships, not to mention the ground forces,” he added.
This naturally has needled the Western powers.
“Our recent warnings have indeed been heard and the effect is noticeable: Tensions have risen,” Putin told Russian diplomats last week, according to the BBC.
“This is not about direct military action — it’s about a signal Putin wants to send,” Andrei Kortunov, head of the Russian International Affairs Council in Moscow, told the outlet.
Putin is flexing his muscles on the ground and in space to show the West that he has the power to do some serious damage.
But his bravado could seal off space for everybody.
If Russia decides to keep blowing up satellites, either to show its strength or to cripple NATO, it could threaten everything and everyone in orbit through what is called the “Kessler syndrome.”
In 1978, NASA scientist Donald Kessler said that if too much space junk ends up in orbit, it could result in a “chain reaction where more and more objects collide and create new space junk in the process, to the point where Earth’s orbit became unusable,” according to the Natural History Museum.
That would be an extreme situation, but Russia has just brought us one step closer to the possibility. If Putin continues making these sorts of threats, he risks cutting off the final frontier forever.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.