Amber Yang is in the ninth grade and has a passion for astrophysics. Her desire to act upon her dream began even greater after watching the movie Gravity. It’s the story of an astronaut that is desperately trying to come back to Earth after a NASA space shuttle gets destroyed. Naturally, Yang was drawn to this movie and it made her think. Even if the story played a bit with certain rules of physics, the essence was true. The movie dealt with the Kessler syndrome which takes place when the planet’s low orbit becomes too crowded with objects. The low Earth orbit is currently home to the International Space Station and many other satellites.
When these objects start colliding, debris is created. The problem is that the debris can trigger an entire series of collisions which, in turn, can cause a catastrophe above our planet. The consequences would be terrifying. Should this ever happen, we might never be able tor each space for a very long period of time. This is precisely what Yang is trying to prevent and she works day and night to accomplish her goal.
The ninth-grader who wants to save the orbit
18-year-old Amber Yang spent three years building an artificial neural network that can predict the future position of space junk with 98% accuracy.
— Forbes Science (@SciForbes) November 22, 2017
According to the European Space Agency, space debris impact is the third highest risk when it comes to losing a spacecraft. If these collisions could be detected in advance, such risks would become increasingly less frequent. This is where Yang comes in. She discovered a way to predict orbits in a more accurate manner a few weeks before the impact. She even won some prizes for her invention.
Her solution consists of artificial neural networks. This is a system which can replicate the learning process of the human brain. She then programmed software of her own and in June 2016, it predicted three days ahead with 98% accuracy.
Image source: nasa.gov