The Instigator
Pro (for)
4 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
5 Points

Short Debate Series: Space Junk Should Not Be Removed

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 8/7/2013 Category: Science
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,573 times Debate No: 36448
Debate Rounds (3)
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Votes (2)




Space junk is the man made stuff we left floating around Earth from our space endeavours. It should be left to float peacefully.

First Round for acceptance only.
No semantics.
3k character limit.

Good luck!


I accept this debate and finally a debate that we agreed to at the beginning of the we we get under way.
Debate Round No. 1


Cost vs. Benefit

The costs of removing space junk would be tremendous. Not only would you have to design a craft (probably unmanned) that can meet up, catch up or intercept space junk you would have to give it a mechanism to capture the junk, store it and then bring it back down to Earth. So you have an initial, expensive, large hurdle to overcome before you can even begin to think about collecting space junk.

Then you have fuel costs, maintenance costs and program costs among other things. You need to buy the material, build the craft, fuel it, hire scientists, bureaucrats and managers to run the program then you must launch the thing into space successfully and bring it home. These are massive costs. Then there is a size requirement. You might be able to bring home one satellite sized object per run. There are 22,000 objects 4 inches or larger orbiting the Earth [1]. To even start to make a dent you'd have to run hundreds of runs, thousands if you really want to clean up the junk. That's a lot of fuel and a lot of chance for mistakes. Rockets explode periodically which creates more problems on the ground.

So what benefits would we get from cleaning up space junk? Not much...

A lot of space junk is small and slows down considerably when it enters the atmosphere before burning up. While there have been a handful of documented cases of space junk actually hitting the Earth from large orbital junk the odds of actually getting hit by space junk was 1 in 20 trillion [1]. Since the Earth is over 70% ocean and a lot of land is uninhabited the odds of it even hitting a populated area is quite small.

The one instance where a woman was reported to be hit by space junk, it was lighter than that of a soda can and felt like a "tap on the shoulder" [1].

So should we spend millions, perhaps billions in costs in the long run running vessels into space to collect the junk to bring it back to Earth to dump in a landfill when most of the junk will remain in orbit or burn up anyways? Should we act on the 1 in 20 trillion chance that someone gets tapped on the shoulder by the weight of a soda can?

No, we shouldn't. Space junk should not be collected. We have enough garbage on Earth and the costs just do not even come close to justifying the imperceptible benefits.



My opponent seems to base his arguement around costs and weather or not that we have the technology. In this round I'll proove that we have both.

Contention 1: Technology

The EDDE system solves – Full cleanup by 2017

Dilliow in 10 (Clay, Writer for popular science, Popular science, DARPA’s Giant Space Junk Net Could Remove Almost All Debris August 16, 2010,, NU)

Once EDDE has a piece of space junk cornered, it can either hurl it into the South Pacific where it has little chance of doing any harm, or put it on a trajectory to burn up during re-entry. Or, Star insists, the pieces of junk could be recycled right there in space to create raw materials for the construction of future orbiting space stations or satellites. It sounds pretty out there, but Star has already begun testing the tech and should conduct a test flight in 2013. If that succeeds, EDDEs could begin a full cleanup operation in LEO by 2017.

Also to note that 12 EDDE vechicles can clean up all space debris. we can see that we have the technology in the EDDE system, but what about costs?

Contention 2: Costs

Pro states that there will be a launch cost but this is false, because it folds to fit into a box that is 60 cm by 30 by on a rocket so it can launch with another protect that NASA plans to do!

As stated in the last contention these are long lasting systems that it takes 12 not hundreds like Pro is stating to clean up space debris.

Contention 3: Advantages

EDDE can dragg the space debris into a 'Space Junkyard' instead of dropping them into LEO to burn up. How much will this recover you may ask? $20,000 per killiogram of matterials! (source is also the one from above)

Kessler Syndrome

In a nut shell the Kessler Syndrome is since that we have so much Space Debris that it starts to collide and falls into millions of other pieces and it continues to do this. You may say that it has no affect on us but in reality it can destroy our rockets into outer space and even endanger the ISS (International Space Station). You may also think that this is inpossible but it has happend before.

Debate Round No. 2


EDDE System

The bulk of my opponent's argument revolves around the use of this EDDE system (ElectroDynamic Debris Eliminator) however, this piece of technology has not been actually completed. According to the website this is still a "vision". It says things like "propellantless" vehicles [1] that can move freely throughout low Earth orbit but that makes no sense. To change vector and level in orbit takes a lot of energy. When digging I find that this technology described is in early planning and there is no real information about the technical details of this system. That being said, the statement saying that it can clean up "all" space debris is false. It can only clean up the LEO debris which is ~2000 of the 22000 total debris in space.

Using undeveloped tech in an argument is like me saying "We should colonize Mars if we had..." but we're talking about current day technology options. There is no guarantee this technology comes to fruition so we can't say we should do something based on tech that is undeveloped. I could say we should start an interstellar colony program because we might have warp drive soon but that's not a good basis for an argument.

This being said we must assume that space junk clean up must be viewed within the frame of present day tech as I described in the previous round. We also have to remember that anything in orbit must use a lot of energy to change orbital vectors to even approach different space debris. Calculations, fuel and precision to get two small objects in different orbits to end up next to each other in a single orbital trajectory, EDDE system included, would still take a lot of man power and resources.


Again, the odds of space debris ever striking a human population is infinitesimal. Humans only occupy 2% of the Earth roughly. [2] Most of the Earth is ocean which and most debris won't even make it to the surface. My opponent didn't refute these points earlier so I am rehashing them. As for his point about Kessler Syndrome and the ISS, the great thing about orbits is that they're static. It's hard to change them. We can make sure the ISS stays on a path free of debris. The benefits of doing such a massive clean up in this day and age are so tiny it's not worth the money and time right now.

50 years from now? Maybe. But that's not what this debate is about, it's about cleaning up space junk now. But Space programs are on the decline.


1. The tech described by my opponent is not fully developed or in use so it can't be used as a solid foundation for debate.
2. The odds of space junk causing harm to people on Earth is tiny. It has never happened before.
3. Space programs are on the decline, space junk is not a problem for us in this moment, the resources needed to develop and maintain the tech is too great and the benefits too small.

Space junk should not be removed.

Thank you.



Contention 1: EDDE System

In contrast to it using a lot of energy as I said in last round that it uses clean energy. Thus meaning that it won't be harmful to our envirnment. Secondly he states that it can't clean up all space debris. He does not have a link or source for that as I have several.
So extend my arguements here.


It does not matter if space debris hit human population, not once do I bring this up. But I have brought up the Kessler Syndrome and it destroying out satellites and hurting our people. It also destorys our military satellites which hurts our military defense to our nation.

Debris Destroys Space Readiness

Scheetz 6[Lori
Candidate, Georgetown University Law Center
Georgetown International
Environmental Law Review Georgetown International Environmental Law Review
Fall, 2006 19 Geo. Int'l Envtl. L. Rev. 57,
Infusing Environmental
Ethics into the Space Weapons Dialouge,

Ultimately, these collisions could lead to a chain reaction,
creating a halo of debris and making space virtually unusable for peaceful
purposes, such as communications and GPS satellites
. n85Furthermore, space debris could harm or destroy
current military space applications and thus actually compromise the use of
space for national security purposes
. Steven Mirmina, a senior
attorney with NASA, asserts, "Maintaining the environment of outer space
for future use may also be considered an issue of national security.
If certain orbits in outer space become
so laden with debris that they are no longer usable, the U.S. may encounter
difficulty in achieving some of its national security goals."

Space Junkyard

My opponent dropps the arguement so extend all points here. It's thousands we can be making a proffit of and Pro dropps it.

Vote for Con.

Debate Round No. 3
No comments have been posted on this debate.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by RoyLatham 3 years ago
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Total points awarded:05 
Reasons for voting decision: Nice debate within the short debate format. There is ambiguity in the resolution. Pro's challenge sounds like he wants to leave space junk "floating peacefully" forever, but that seems like an unreasonable position. I think the most reasonable interpretation is that we should not start on the problem now, but should wait to some time in the future. Pro's objection were not well supported by sources. It's true the technology does not exist now, but the Evidence is that the EDDE is a reasonable system to get statrted. Con never said anything about debris striking people and had evidence that crashes in space are a problem. Cost is a risk, but Pro didn't have any specifics that would justify not starting an EDDE project. Arguments and sources to Con. I had some trouble unraveling two of the Con links, but found the stuff.
Vote Placed by Merrit 3 years ago
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Total points awarded:40 
Reasons for voting decision: Conduct is tied. S&G goes to Pro due to some errors from Con. Pro negated Cons argument, and Con didn't seem to refute it in the final round. As for sources, Con had more, but the links are broken and I question its validity. For that reason, sources remain tied.