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Would a mission to LEO to study and record the amount of marine debris be of use or is someone already doing it?

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  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to space stack exchange! This site works on a model of accepting questions with right or wrong answers, not opinion-based or discussion type answers. This means that your question is most likely going to be closed. If you can reword it to be a better fit for this site, please do so. $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Aug 27 '18 at 18:08
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    $\begingroup$ I think the question is not an opinion or discussion, if such a mission exists or is at least planned, is an objective fact. $\endgroup$ – peterh Aug 27 '18 at 21:27
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    $\begingroup$ What marine debris are you talking about? Shipwrecks? Plastic soup? $\endgroup$ – Hobbes Aug 28 '18 at 5:46
  • $\begingroup$ Plastic soup @Hobbes $\endgroup$ – Lee Warren Aug 28 '18 at 8:14
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    $\begingroup$ Plastic soup is microscopic plastic particles, density is 5 particles/m^3. That would make it difficult to detect from space. $\endgroup$ – Hobbes Aug 28 '18 at 8:34
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It seems the European Space Agency is planning to do it, see this recent article (19 March 2018):

https://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Preparing_for_the_Future/Discovery/ESA_investigating_detection_of_floating_plastic_litter_from_orbit

The millions of tonnes of plastic ending up in the oceans every year are a global challenge. ESA is responding by looking at the detection of marine plastic litter from space, potentially charting its highest concentrations and understanding the gigantic scale of the problem. [...]

“What we are now looking at in this new project is to assess the feasibility of direct optical measurement of seaborne plastic waste from satellites. This might sound like mission impossible, but there are reasons to believe it might be indeed doable, at least for certain concentrations. [...]

In particular, plastic has specific infrared fingerprints that are sometimes used in the recycling industry to sort plastic items from other refuse on a conveyor belt.” [...]

Satellite images from missions such the Copernicus Sentinels are being checked against aerial coverage plus ground surveys where drifting plastic is collected from the sea to be assessed in close-up. Initial results were presented last week at the International Marine Debris Conference in San Diego, USA. [...]

Paolo adds, “We hope to get an idea of what kind of concentration of marine litter is viewable from the top of the atmosphere using current technology, or if we’d have to operate from the middle of the atmosphere using aircraft or drones. Or would we have to improve the technology? [...]

The project will deliver a preliminary set of requirements for a satellite to detect marine plastic litter in the shortwave infrared.

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    $\begingroup$ Good answer! To complement - a dedicated satellite could be too expensivee for this purpose. So more probable is a one of instruments on multipurpose satellite, or ISS plug-in instrument. Or microsat/cubesats if the payload could be fit in this scale. $\endgroup$ – Heopps Aug 28 '18 at 13:27

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