Strauss Center News

Updates from the Strauss Center and our affiliated distinguished scholars and fellows


Dr. Jah Featured in BBC’s The Inquiry

Mar 2, 2021 |

Dr. Moriba Jah, Associate Professor of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics at UT Austin and Strauss Center Distinguished Scholar, was featured in a recent episode of the BBC’s Inquiry podcast on space junk. Dr. Jah began by emphasizing that near earth space is a finite resource—one which is becoming increasingly polluted by “mission-related debris,” or the array of refuse left behind by space missions. Dr. Jah then moved to explain the complexity of ascertaining the precise locations of objects in space, noting that U.S. Space Command maintains the largest accessible database on the locations of objects in space. This data, however, conflicts with the data maintained in other resources. This conflict is the guiding rationale for Dr. Jah’s ASTRIAGraph, the database he and his team at UT have made which collates data from around the globe on the locations of objects in space. Of the roughly thirty-thousand objects that Dr. Jah and his team track, only approximately three-thousand are functional. Unfortunately, these represent only a fraction of the objects in orbit: there are approximately half a million objects in orbit that are too small to detect. Dr. Jah likened this crisis to the other climate-related crises unfolding on earth, relaying the urgency of action. Dr. Jah concluded with a grim note, urging listeners to be accustomed to the notion of living in our own filth, given that we will never be able to fully clean up space. Listen to the full episode here.