While Dr. Evil wanted sharks with lasers as a symbol of his personal badness, I’m sure he never considered putting them in orbit around the earth to mitigate space debris.
Some NASA folks have an idea that doesn’t entail the use of orbiting sharks; instead the call is for the use of ground-based, non-shark using lasers to slow down space debris in low earth orbit. Slowing debris down quickens deorbit and burn in and could make the space frontier a safer place.
The good news is that unlike Dr. Evil’s sharks, earth-based lasers are not (yet) on the endangered species list.
The bad news is the endangered U.S. taxpayer is the proposed bill-payer for the effort. The space fee-for-service model has a few details to still be worked out, but perhaps a “deorbit tax” could be charged by the UN in order to procure a launch license.
Hmmm. Of course, that would make space more expensive than it already is…
We can also expect a bit of angst and gnashing of teeth as the proposed (and modest) 5kW ground-based laser would still be powerful enough to ‘dazzle out’ a 50km earth area (approximately) on a live surveillance spacecraft in addition to its possible use as a space warfare tool that reduces the longevity of functional spacecraft.
Head nod to MIT’s Technology Review.