Space Junk: 21,500 Objects in Our Orbit


One interesting article I read recently is included in the July 2010 issue of National Geographic.  Titled “Clearing Space”, the article focuses on the ever increasing amount of junk humanity has put into space and the ideas to combat it.  In fact, NASA has their own office dedicated to space junk.  It’s titled, “NASA’s Orbital Debris Program Office” and they keep tabs on the amount of stuff up there, orbiting our planet.  It reminded me of that scene from the animated movie WALL-E when the space ship takes off from Earth then flies through the thick cloud of orbital debris.  Perhaps this scene isn’t so far off after all.  NASA has catalogued 21,500 objects four inches or larger thus far, which are either in low Earth orbit or higher.

Here’s an image from UK’s Daily Mail showing the debris orbiting Earth:

Most recently, in February of last year, a communications satellite collided with an old defunct russian satellite above Siberia, thus adding 2,000 more debris to Earth Orbit.  There’s even concern that too much space junk in Earth’s orbit could lead to too much collision danger for new spacecraft.  It’s called “Kessler Syndrome”.  A conference was held last year by NASA and the U.S. Department of Defense to discuss ways to combat space junk.  For now it seems like keeping track of the junk is the best wade to evade it.  However, other ideas have come about-and one of the more interesting ones involves dragging the debris into Earth’s atmosphere where it’d burn up on re-entry.  Check out the official site for NASA’s Orbital Debris Program Office by visiting:http://www.orbitaldebris.jsc.nasa.gov/

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