Giant 'Pac-Man' to gobble up dangerous space junk

Swiss team plans to capture satellite

Real-Life Pac-Man Eats Up Space Junk
Swiss engineers have come up with a prototype that will clean up debris in space known as 'space junk'. The solution is modelled after the classic 80s video game Pac-Man.

There's a huge amount of debris in space from broken satellites, rockets and other man-made objects circling our planet at high speed.

They can be so dangerous to satellites, spacecraft and the people working in space that NASA continually monitors every item larger than 10cm across.

As of 2013, according to NASA, there were over 500,000 pieces of space debris each larger than a marble orbiting the Earth, including more than 20,000 pieces each larger than a baseball, moving at speeds of up to 28,000kph (17,500mph).

Many engineers are working on different systems for removing the rubbish, including robot arms, traps, slingshots and giant lasers.

Pac-Man solution

The Clean Space One Project, from the Swiss technical university EPFL, has been exploring a range of options for cleaning up the cosmic rubbish, reports the Daily Mirror.

The so-called 'Pac-Man solution' has been given the mission to capture a small satellite called SwissCube, before dragging it into the Earth's atmosphere to burn up.

The tiny clean-up satellite will deploy a conical net to capture it and then the two will combust together.

"This system is more reliable and offers a larger margin for manoeuvring than a claw or an articulated hand," says Michel Lauria, an engineer working on the Pac-Man solution.

It could be launched into space as soon as 2018.