What is Space Junk, and do we need to do something about it?

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What is Space Junk? Orbital debris, or space junk, is basically all the bits and bobs of satellites and rockets that humans have left in space. This can include broken down satellites, the two phases of a rocket that break off of the rocket when it gets to space, and the occasional rocket that fails.

How much junk is there in space? According to NASA, there are 500,000 pieces of debris or space junk just floating around in space. They travel at 28,163 kilometers per hour. Debris floating around at that speed could damage a satellite or a rocket! Yup, it’s that fast!

So why is space junk such a problem? The space junk is in space and we are on Earth, so how does it affect our lives?

  1. When we send rockets and probes into space, we want them to complete their mission. So if there is useless garbage floating around, travelling at high speeds, it could pose a threat to our space missions.
  2. When two or more pieces of space junk collide, they will create more debris, and soon space will be cluttered with space junk, and we won’t be able to send any missions.
  3. There are lots of space missions now to find life on other planets. What if there actually are aliens out there? If there are, it means that we are not only littering our space, we are littering that of other life-forms as well.

Methods of removing space junk: There are lots of wild suggestions on how to get rid of space junk. Some people say that using nets, harpoons, robotic arms and tentacles are the way to go, while some propose that we should use electricity to slow down the speed of the space junk so that it falls down to earth and burns in the atmosphere.

What’s clear is that something radical needs to be done fast. One such project is called RemoveDebris, from the University of Surrey. This project reached the International Space Station in April 2018, aboard a SpaceX Dragon Capsule. Stay tuned as it somehow uses a net, harpoon and sail to try and snag some orbital junk!

Written by: Sumer Murthy. Sumer is an entertaining 11 year old who is interested in facts, science experiments, and eating pizza.

 

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