May 10, 2022 / by Jaime
  Filed Under: Uncategorized

space junk
Don’t junk up space

The global space race has many adverse effects on the space around Earth. These small pieces of junk seem very unassuming. They don’t form large clusters either. Their positions are very sparse around Earth’s orbit. But even the tiniest of them have extreme velocity and can threaten most satellites. Space junk is a serious problem, and we will tell you why.

What Is Space Junk?

Space junk is the collection of junk objects that humans send into space. This massive garbage collection orbits the Earth creating a danger zone for satellites. Those objects have no functional value.

Space trash usually stays around the geosynchronous Earth and in low orbit. They form a massive veil of sparsely scattered floating metal. Many commercial and military satellites have to face the constant threat of colliding with this junk.

Over 23000 artificial objects measuring 4 inches circle the Earth. That’s only the stuff we bother to track. Even then, the collective size of this junkyard is enough to form a semi-functional ring system around the planet.

Typically, the debris released at lower altitudes will eventually drop back to Earth. But anything that manages to reach low Earth orbit will stay there for at least a century. That is enough time for this debris to collide with a few solitary satellites, which will add even more to the junk pile.

As it stands, the volume of space debris is increasing faster than its natural cleaning time. It’s not a stretch to call it a type of space pollution. Humans are insanely good at polluting everything they touch, so at this point, it shouldn’t come as a surprise.

How Does Space Debris Get Into Space?

Space debris is the collection of artificial objects in space that no longer have any purpose. These junks reach there through various means. Used rocket stages, launch canisters, and other space-bound vehicle parts make up a large portion of space junk.

But space junk is not limited to just those things. The out-of-commission satellites, trash, and waste products ejected from space stations and rockets also add a substantial volume to space junk. Every new space mission adds a new trash heap to the existing pile.

Abandoned satellites account for the bulk of the most dangerous space trash. These things are enormous, and they often crash with other objects. Even operational satellites might collide with space debris and become a part of that growing collection. It’s all a very vicious cycle.

Various countries send repair teams to try and repair damaged satellites and space stations. These repair teams can also add to the growing mass of space waste if they lose any tools in space. The size of that junk does not matter much because it orbits the Earth at an average speed of 28,000 km/h. Even an ice cube can do a lot of damage when moving at that velocity.

Why Is Space Junk A Problem?

Space surveillance organizations keep track of most of the larger space trash pieces. The minimum size to fit their criteria is far smaller than you would imagine. But any junk floating in space can cause tremendous damage to robotic and satellite exploration. 

The space junk moves at a very high velocity in a set orbit. And anything clashing with them would receive severe damage. Even though modern satellites and other explorers have shielding technology against space junk, they are not very effective. They can only protect them from debris with a size of half a centimeter or below.

Most of the methods to protect against debris are ineffective. As things are right now, space junks are harmful for space exploration. They pose a danger to robot carriers and satellites to a large degree. Spaceships and crews are also not safe since a collision with even one of them could lead to a hazardous conclusion.

Space programs have no choice but to dedicate extra resources to avoid the space junk when making a new plan. NASA even has explicit guidelines on managing the situation if something hits a space station. Such as protocols for conditions where evasive maneuvers are necessary to ensure the crew’s safety.

The space junk has a zombification effect for proliferating. Anything the trash manages to destroy will inevitably turn into more space junk. So, you can see how big of a problem space junk truly is.

Can We Do Anything About It?

Space junk is the result of the collective effort of all the countries that organized space missions till now. That means the responsibility to deal with this also falls on them. Many people agree with the necessity of a collective effort to reduce and remove space waste.

Several companies have proposed various solutions to the problem. Some of them include dragging larger space junk back into the atmosphere. It’s still theoretical, and pulling some debris back with magnets or something similar is entirely possible. We could also take Elon Musk’s advice and make space Pac-man chompers to eat the trash- hay, as long as it works. 

However, space debris does tend to fall back to Earth on its own. The closer they are to the Earth’s orbit, the faster they fall. They usually disintegrate due to the heat of reentering the atmosphere. But this process takes centuries to complete, so it is not a feasible solution.

Conclusion

We believe now you have a better understanding of  how it is affecting our space exploration. Space junk is increasing at an alarming rate, and we cannot wait for this junk to fall back to earth. 

To resolve the issue we need to reduce the things we send to outer space, as well as develop technologies that can clean up the existing junk at a reasonable cost.

Read more: NASA.GOV

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