Space debris or junk has become a growing concern in recent years.
Space junk is a problem that has only grown worse over time.
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According to NASA, more than 500,000 pieces of debris or space junk are orbiting around the Earth today and at a speed of 17,500 miles per hour, which is fast enough for a small piece of debris to damage a satellite or spacecraft.
That much space debris poses a huge threat for all types of spacecrafts but especially to those which are carrying humans as well.
Space junk is comprised of both natural things such as meteoroids and artificial or man-made particles. Artificial debris comes from lost and nonfunctional spacecrafts and abandoned space shuttles and it is the ones that revolve around our planet and creates most of the problem.
More than 20,000 pieces of debris are larger than a softball, around 500,000 pieces of space junk are the size of a marble and there are millions of other pieces as well that cannot be even tracked.
“The greatest risk to space missions comes from non-trackable debris.” Nicholas Johnson, NASA chief scientist for orbital debris said in a statement.
NASA takes space debris issue very seriously and to avoid any potential collision between spacecraft and debris, national space agency in collaboration with DoD cooperate keeps the record of orbital debris hurtling in the outer space. Using ground based sensors and inspection of returned satellites, NASA tracks separate pieces of debris moving around the earth and the total number of tracked objects is around 21,000 so far.
Stuart Grey, a lecturer at University College London has created an animation which demonstrates how much debris has accumulated around the Earth over the years. It all started in 1957 when Sputnik, the first ever satellite, was launched into space and grew enormously in 2009 when couple of big satellites collided and added a bulk of debris in space and the trend continued in 2015 as well.
“Almost every mission into space has created new debris, either from launch vehicles, objects falling off satellites or unintended collisions.” A latest report reads.
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“Space is becoming a very cluttered place, making it all the more dangerous to send humans up there to our orbit and beyond.”