The tiny pieces of space junk orbiting the Earth could have a major impact on space exploration.
Not everything we send into space comes back down. In fact, there are millions of pieces of junk, ranging from tiny flecks of paint to entire satellites currently taking up space around the Earth’s atmosphere.
As of now, space agencies are already tracking 750,000 pieces of space debris orbiting the Earth. This space pollution is a major problem, because of how fast objects orbiting Earth travel. Even a paint fleck a few millimetres long can cause serious damage when it hits something. The more that this space junk proliferates, the harder and harder it will be to send anything up into space.
We could literally trap ourselves on Earth if we’re not careful.
Removing the space junk
Luckily, scientists are working on ways to prevent this. One NASA program called Space Debris Elimination proposes shooting atmospheric gasses into space to destabilise the debris’ orbit and send it plummeting back to Earth, where it will burn up in our atmosphere.
Another proposal from the ESA tackles the larger pieces of debris, like old satellites. Their idea is to send a machine into space called the E-DeOrbit, which would literally shoot a net at old satellites and drag them back into the atmosphere with a small rocket.
Neither of these solutions would address the millions of tiny bits of trash floating around the Earth, so the best idea for now is to prevent more from building up. If not, we could find ourselves trapped in a prison of our own making.
Source: Curious Droid
This article was originally written for and published by Popular Mechanics USA.