A group of avid Doctor Who fans plan to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the British cult sci-fi show in a very unconventional manner. Using the business start-up website Kickstarter, they plan to launch a replica of the TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimensions In Space) into LEO (low-Earth orbit).
The news comes mere weeks after the 6th European Conference On Space Debris concluded that LEO was overcrowded to the point that there was an “urgent need” to start removing redundant space junk from it.
Scientists estimate that there are upwards of 30,000 pieces of debris in LEO larger than 10cm in size (which makes them trackable by RADAR) and tens of thousands more items below that size.
There is now so much debris in LEO that collisions between debris and satellites are inevitable, and scientists are worried that a cascade of collisions could occur that would make space “extremely hazardous”.
Current internationally-agreed rules on orbital equipment state that any satellite in LEO must fall back into the atmosphere “within 25 years of completing its mission”.
Despite this, 3 Stags Productions (the group of Doctor Who fans responsible for the project) hope to launch the TARDIS replica containing little more than a camera on board, a hard drive containing the names, photos and personal messages of anyone that donates money to their cause, and a blinking blue light on the top, powered by solar panels.
While their project page enthuses about how “cool” it would be to have a TARDIS in orbit, they don’t mention exactly when their “mission” will be complete, or how they plan to make their satellite fall back to Earth in the required time.
Nor do they mention that their orbital database of investors will be adding to a problem that the international community has been discussing ways to combat for years.
They do however state on their project page “There are thousands of satellites in the sky, and more and more are added every time we turn around, so it isn’t exactly “risky.”"
Curiously, the comments section on the project webpage can only be posted upon by people who have already backed the project.
“Kessler Syndrome”, first predicted by NASA scientist Donald J. Kessler in 1978, is a situation in which the density of LEO space junk is so high that a cascade of collisions occurs, whereby each collision generates more space debris, which in turn increases the likelihood of further collisions; the cascade eventually rendering space exploration and even the use of satellites infeasible for many generations.
In 2009, the collision between the defunct Russian Cosmos 2251 spacecraft and the American Iridium 33 satellite produced over 1,500 trackable fragments, many of which continue to pose a threat to operational missions.
The iconic TARDIS from Doctor Who is a time-travelling spacecraft that looks like a 1960s British Police Box, which were used by the police as a miniature police station or by the public to telephone the police in an emergency.
On the first of June 2013, the eleventh Doctor, Matt Smith, announced he would be leaving the series, returning only for the 50th anniversary and the Christmas Special.
Speculation is rife as to his replacement, with Jamie Dornan (The Fall) and Andrew Buchan (Party Animals, Broadchurch) being two of the most likely of the “traditional” contenders to be the 12th Doctor.
Still, the internet is buzzing with discussions about the feasibility of a black or female Doctor, with Adrian Lester and Dame Helen Mirren being touted by fans as being perfect for the role, though one has to doubt that the latter would be interested or affordable.
Other unlikely candidates include Ben Whishaw (Q in the last James Bond installment Skyfall) and David Harewood (Homeland), with certain bookmakers also listing Hollywood hardman Jason Statham as a possibility.
One interesting name to emerge is that of Olivia Colman of Peepshow and Broadchurch fame, though filming in Cardiff may be offputting for the London-based mother of two. Also, Colman having appeared as an incidental character in Doctor Who already may discount her as a possibility.
It was recently revealed that Hollywood legend John Hurt will play the 9th Doctor in the forthcoming 50th anniversary special, but it remains unclear whether he will be playing the role left vacant after a single season by Christopher Eccleston, or whether Ecclestone’s Doctor will be shuffled to 10th to accommodate Hurt as the 9th, which would make Matt Smith the 12th Doctor, with the role of the 13th Doctor as yet undecided.
So, who will be the 12th Doctor Who? (or 13th)?
And how do you feel about launching a TARDIS into low-Earth orbit?
Let us know via our Twitter account or Facebook page.
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