When you normally think of space and the infinite-ness of the universe it’s hard to imagine that it’s getting crowded up there. But that exactly what’s happening. Recently, scientist in the US, have warned NASA that the amount of ‘space junk’ orbiting the earth may be reaching a ‘tipping point’.
Over the past 25 years many nations have introduced a myriad of new satellites and spacecraft. These orbiting technological wonders are eventually abandoned and left to circle the world at tremendous speeds. Even in the immensity of space, these discarded pieces of space trash pose a danger to space exploration.
In 2007 the Chinese government demonstrated a weapon that could destroy a satellite, creating over 150, 000 pieces of debris that now circle the earth. This is in addition to the debris created by unintentional satellite collisions that have occurred over the past few years.
Estimates put the amount of debris that can be tracked from earth at around 22,000 pieces. However it takes only small pieces to do damage to spacecraft or the International Space Station. In recent years, the space station has had to alter its orbit in order to avoid space junk. The amount and severity of the space debris was so great that astronauts and cosmonauts on the International Space Station were forced to take emergency measures and board the escape pods back to earth in the case of a terminal collision with the junk.
It’s easy to see how humans have applied our environmental policy’s to space. The idea that space is an endless garbage dump where there are no consequences to our endless pollution has backfired on us in a big way. Without better planning, we soon may find ourselves trapped on our own planet, until we figure out a way to clean up the universe.