The question, of course, is who would pay for such a scheme. Many companies have proposed dealing with the space junk, but as there's no jurisdiction and no immediate threat, there's always a problem with finding funds.
"The space junk problem is a bit like global warming - getting governments to agree to fund such activities is difficult," said Jason Forshaw, a research fellow at the University of Surrey who is on the United Kingdom's RemoveDEBRIS mission. Expected to launch next year from the ISS, it would test out harpoons, nets and sails to take out space debris.
"We are trying to raise awareness that space is part of the Earth's environment - space also needs cleaning and the longer we take to address this issue, the worse it will become," Forshaw said in an email to Seeker, suggesting perhaps an intergovernmental organization could take on the responsibility. With 7,000 tons of junk in space, Forshaw said he believes there is potential for many technologies to take them out.
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Markusic said he is confident government entities would be interested in paying to clean out the debris, if there is a good reason behind it. But before heading for Mars, he needs to raise funds for a rocket that would let his startup company enter the launch market. Called Firefly Alpha, it's supposed to launch light satellites (less than 1,000 kg) into space, with some CubeSats for third parties potentially riding along to gain more revenue.
His project is estimated at $100 million, and so far he's "raised and spent" about a third of that from venture capitalists and angels. A new Series A round for $25 million has stalled, however, as some of the parties dropped out last minute.