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"it slowly dawned on me that the landscape of science is maybe what interests people a great deal in science fiction."
- Gregory Benford

Operation Cleanup  
  The program that removed space debris in LEO that could harm the space elevator.  

The Fountains of Paradise is a great example of Clarke's writing style; great difficulties accompany any great enterprise, but the calm application of the scientific method and sound engineering principles will always prevail.

For two hundred years, satellites of all shapes and sizes, from loose nuts and bolts to entire space villages, had been accumulating in Earth orbit. All that came below the extreme elevation of the Tower, at any time, now had to be accounted for, since they created a possible hazard. Three-quarters of this material was abandoned junk, much of it long forgotten. Now it had to be located, and somehow disposed of.

Fortunately, the old orbital forts were superbly equipped for this task. Their radars - designed to locate oncoming missles at extreme ranges with no advance warning - could easily pinpoint the debris of the early Space Age. Then their lasers vaporized the smaller satellites, while the larger ones were nudged into higher and harmless orbits.

From The Fountains of Paradise, by Arthur C. Clarke.
Published by Ballantine in 1978
Additional resources -

Clarke isn't kidding about the problem of space debris; it has been a known problem since the sixties. Clarke had one possible solution; fortunately, no orbiting fortresses with lasers have been placed in orbit (as far as we know!). Take a look at Terminator Tether - Electrodynamic Tether Solution to Space Debris for a more modern solution. If you want to know the next big piece coming your way, check out the Upcoming Reentries page.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Fountains of Paradise
  More Ideas and Technology by Arthur C. Clarke
  Tech news articles related to The Fountains of Paradise
  Tech news articles related to works by Arthur C. Clarke

Operation Cleanup-related news articles:
  - Terminator Tether - EDT Solution To Space Debris Update
  - NanoTerminator Prevents Annoying Space Debris Build-Up
  - Debris Cloud From Chinese ASAT A Menace To Space Lanes
  - Space Debris Cleanup Suggestions Ignored
  - Laser Thruster 'Tractor Beams' For Space Junk
  - Space Junk-Eating Pod-Craft
  - CleanSpace One Goal: De-Orbit Space Debris
  - Space Debris Cleanup - Use Harpoons Or Gas Clouds?
  - Could Ground-Based Lasers De-Orbit Space Junk?
  - Australians To Zap Space Junk Ala Arthur C. Clarke
  - Tracking Spinning Space Junk
  - Zap Space Debris With Telescope Laser On ISS
  - New Laser Space Debris Clearing More Subtle Than Clarke's

Articles related to Space Tech
New Laser Space Debris Clearing More Subtle Than Clarke's
Proposal To Use Lasers To Analyze Asteroids
Juno Gets Close To Jupiter, Fiction Gets Closer!
NASA Submarine For Titan

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