About Orbital Objects
The skies above Earth are teeming with manmade objects large and small. The U.S. Space Surveillance Network uses radar to track more than 13,000 such items that are larger than four inches (ten centimeters). This celestial clutter includes everything from the International Space Station (ISS) and the Hubble Space Telescope to defunct satellites, rocket stages, or nuts and bolts left behind by astronauts. And there are millions of smaller, harder-to-track objects such as flecks of paint and bits of plastic.
Gravitational pull will ensure that anything we’ve ever put in orbit will eventually make its way back to Earth. And though thus far no one has ever been killed by reentering space debris, NASA estimates on average one piece returns to Earth each day.
NASA and other national space agencies have identified orbital debris as a serious problem and are currently devising plans to mitigate existing space junk and curb future debris.
- Let’s Destroy Space Junk! By Putting Tons of Metal Dust into Orbit? (blogs.discovermagazine.com)
- Simulations Will Help Keep Track of Remote Space Junk (wired.com)
- Space Junk: Ideas for Cleaning up Earth Orbit (universetoday.com)
- Space Junk Hazards Force International Response (space.com)