(NPR) — Space junk is a growing problem in Earth's orbit — and it poses a risk to both hardware and human life.
“[It's] everything from upper-stage rocket bodies, completely intact dead satellites, shards of stuff…flecks of paint, bolts, nuts.” #NPRShortWave
Since the dawn of Sputnik in 1957, space-faring nations have been filling Earth's orbit with satellites. Think GPS, weather forecasting, telecommunications satellites. But as those have increased, so, too, has space junk. On today's show, we talk about the first mission to clean up space junk and the problem debris poses to sustainability in space. Follow Maddie Sofia on Twitter @maddie_sofia and Emily Kwong @emilykwong1234. E-mail the show at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Orbital debris, commonly known as “space junk,” exists at all levels of orbit, but is especially concentrated in low Earth orbit. Space junk has the potential to damage working satellites and crewed spacecraft, including the International Space Station.
And, the population of space junk is projected to grow, as the commercial space economy continues to expand and more satellites are scheduled to launch.