You may or may not have heard. A satellite is about to crash land on earth. No, not the UARS satellite; there’s another one. For those of you keeping score at home, that’s two falling satellites in a one month span. You may be wondering why, all of a sudden, space junk is endangering our lives. The simple answer is, because there’s a lot of it. There are 22,000 pieces of useless space junk that are big enough to be tracked from earth. In addition to those, there are more than 100,000 pieces of stuff bigger than 1 cm. That might not seem big, but when it’s moving at hundreds or thousands of miles per hour, it can certainly do some damage. The picture to the left, by the European Space Operations Centre, shows how big this problem really is.
According to a report released in September, the problem is now at the tipping point. If we don’t do something soon, the space clutter could pose extreme threats to working satellites (which control GPS, Cell Phones, and anyone who has a satellite dish for cable), future space missions, and us here on the ground. Imagine if something the size of a school bus, traveling at over 15,000 mph, slammed into a sky scraper. The odds aren’t good, but it could certainly happen. The European Space Operations Centre also released an image of what space will look like if we curb the problem vs. if we continue on our current path:
In the mean time, keep an eye on the sky for a giant satellite.
Image Credits: http://www.universetoday.com/13587/space-debris-illustrated-the-problem-in-pictures/