Space may not actually be as big as we imagine, at least not the space that directly surrounds our planet. When we gaze up into the night sky, romantically spotting stars we may have more of a chance of browsing items in the cosmic junk yard.
With more than 5,000 launches of various shuttles, satellites and other equipment in the last 60 years, space is becoming congested. Space trash is becoming a real problem …space rage may be the next thing to hit the headlines.
You may have seen the impact that space trash had on Sandra Bullock in the blockbuster movie Gravity, but surely that isn’t something that could affect us right? Well it could be more of a problem to our daily lives than we realise.
There are non-lethal ways that space junk could interfere with our daily lives. GPS signals, international phone call connections, TV signals and weather forecasts could be disrupted. But it could also have more serious implications.
It is debris, mostly man-made, consisting of a variety of non-functional left overs of space missions. Out-Of-Commission space vehicles, broken satellites, spent rocket launch stages, objects that have been ‘dropped’ by astronauts, including a glove, a tool box, nuts and bolts – and then fragments which result from collisions between these.
There are millions of fragments of debris, some as tiny as grains of salt rushing around the globe at speeds of around 17,500 miles per hours.
500,000 pieces of space debris between 1 and 10cm
More than 21,000 pieces larger than 10cm
More than 100 million pieces below 1cm
Most orbital debris is within 2,000km of the Earth’s surface
The greatest concentrations of debris are found at 750-800km
Travel up to speeds of 28,163 km/h (17,500 mph)
Only 7% of space junk is functional
The amount of debris varies at different orbit levels around the Earth.
Low Earth-orbit (LEO), is between the distances of 125-1,250 miles from the surface. At this level, space junk is directly affected impacted by the atmosphere, which degrades their orbit – dragging the pieces back to Earth.
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