The Space Show

The Space Show focuses on timely and important issues influencing the development of outer-space commerce and space tourism, as well as other related subjects of interest to us all.

You can listen anytime you like to any guest that has been on The Space Show or its predecessor, Business Without Boundaries, using Windows Media Player.

Broadcast 1666 (Special Edition)Listen to the show!
Aired on December 5th, 2011
Guest: Nicholas Johnson
Nicholas (Nick) Johnson. Topics: Space debris issues. You are invited to comment, ask questions, and discuss the Space Show program/guest(s) on the Space Show blog, Comments, questions, and any discussion must be relevant and applicable to Space Show programming. Transcripts of Space Show programs are not permitted without prior written consent from The Space Show (even if for personal use) & are a violation of the Space Show copyright. The Space Show/OGLF is now engaged in its annual fundraising drive. Please see & act upon our appeal at We welcomed Nick Johnson back to the show for a comprehensive discussion on space debris issues. We started out with an assessment of the space debris problem as of today. Here, Mr. Johnson talked with us about the impact of sun on space debris through both the solar max and the solar minimum. I referenced the NRC report and asked if concurred that we were at the "tipping" point in the debris issue. We talked about cleaning up debris and our guest said that various options were being looked at but we were not there yet. Nick mentioned a few possible technologies but that funding was needed, demo projects needed to be carried out, and that international cooperation and funding consortium ideas were being explored. Space attorney Robert called in regarding some of the legal issue needing to be addressed based on the Outer Space Treaty, the Liability Treaty and other legal documents. Perhaps the biggest legal issue is that of needing permission from the owner of the hardware to retrieve or do something with it so that it does not add to the debris problem. We did talk about mitigation strategies for newer satellites and I inquired why the 25 year boundary for keeping the satellite from becoming debris. Jerry called in and wanted to know about the possibility of magnetic cleansing and suggested VASMIR. Another listener asked about satellite upset events that happen when a satellite gets hit with really small flakes of debris causing the satellite to reboot. Before the break, we talked about the return to Earth of the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) and Nick talked about tracking the return of objects. Don't miss this discussion. I also asked him about Burnt Frost, the U.S. satellite shoot down in 2008. We started the second segment with a listener question about possible titanium tanks on Phobos-Grunt and reentry concerns. Nick said that Russia said the main tanks were aluminum and that Russia should be addressing reentry concerns. We talked in general about the problem of hydrazine and it remaining frozen during reentry. Another listener asked about plutonium on board spacecraft and the Russian accident in Canada with Cosmos 954. Another listener asked about cubesat and possible debris issues. Space tugs for debris removal were discussed as were Earth-based lasers. International cooperation was discussed and of course ITAR came up. As the program was ending, we talked about NASA's reentry plans for both the ISS and the Hubble Space Telescope. Nick also clarified the law for us regarding keeping pieces of satellites or debris that hit the Earth as they remain the property of the launching country. Please post your comments/questions on The Space Show blog URL above.

About our guest...

Nicholas Johnson
As NASA Chief Scientist for Orbital Debris at the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, Mr. Johnson serves as the agency authority in the field of orbital debris, including all aspects of environment definition, present and future, and the operational and design implications of the environment to both manned and robotic space vehicles operating in Earth orbit. He is responsible for conceiving, conducting, and directing research to define the orbital debris environment, for determining operational techniques for spacecraft to protect themselves from the environment, and for recommending techniques to minimize the growth in the future orbital debris environment. Mr. Johnson coordinates NASA's orbital debris research with similar research conducted by other US agencies, other national space agencies, and international organizations. Mr. Johnson serves as the head of the US delegation to the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC), comprised of the world’s 12 leading space agencies, and serves as the US expert at United Nations in matters concerning orbital debris. He is recognized internationally as an authority on orbital debris and foreign space systems and is the author of eighteen books and more than 200 papers on these topics during the past 32 years.

[ Return to the main page ]

Download Windows Media Player

NOTICE: The views and comments expressed on The Space Show by its guests, callers, and listeners belong to the maker. The Space Show and its host serve only as a platform and are not responsible for other's comments or view. All topics discussed on The Space Show are primarily for educational purposes.

Streaming audio requires Microsoft Windows Media Player or compatible audio player
For technical support please contact the webmaster:

Website and audio content are for personal use only and protected by U.S. copyright law.
For more information e-mail Dr. David Livingston:

© Copyright 2015 Dr. David M Livingston & One Giant Leap Foundation All rights reserved. No part of Space Show audio and video programs may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including but not limited to photocopying, recording, edits, transcripts, website uploads, including YouTube or other electronic or mechanical methods, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by Fair Use under 17 U.S.C. § 107, without the prior written permission of One Giant Leap Foundation. For permission requests, write to Dr. David M. Livingston, The Space Show, P.O. Box 95, Tiburon, CA 94920 USA.

Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!