Monday, June 10, 2013

What would happen if all satellites stopped working?

What would happen if all satellites stopped working?  

We don’t always realise how much we depend on satellites orbiting our planet. Our space correspondent imagines the impact on the planet if we completely lost transmission. 

We may not always realise it, but we depend on space technology orbiting the Earth. So what would happen if it all stopped working? At a recent international conference on “space hazards”, I listened to a series of speakers outline doomsday scenarios. These included a massive solar storm disrupting satellite communications, a cyber attack partially disabling the GPS system, and debris knocking out Earth-monitoring satellites.

Threats to this space infrastructure are real, and governments around the world are beginning to think seriously about improving the resilience of the systems we rely on. To focus their thoughts, and with a nod to that pioneer of threats from space, Orson Welles, here is what might happen if we suddenly encountered a day without satellites…

There was nothing sudden. Planes did not fall out of the sky, the lights didn’t go out or the water supplies fail. At least, not at first.

Some things did stop working straightaway but, for most people, they were more an inconvenience than anything else. The loss of television satellites meant that many families missed the cheery rehearsed smiles of breakfast TV presenters, and were forced to talk to each other over their cereal instead. There were no foreign correspondents on the radio, no results of the latest international sports fixtures.

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