20,000 Pieces Of Junk: Look What Our Obsession To Explore Space Has Done To Our Planet [VIDEO]

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Since Sputnik 1 (4 October 1957 to be precise), we’ve been littering the space around our planet with debris. Dr. Stuart Grey at University College London and part of the Space Geodesy and Navigation Laboratory has created an interactive visualisation that tells the story of how it has accumulated from 1957 to 2015, using data on the precise location of each piece of junk, larger than 10 centimeters, from space-track.org.

The 20,000 items of space junk, ranging from the size on an apple to the size of a bus, currently trapped in Earth’s orbit include old engine parts, old rockets, abandoned satellites and other floating junk generated by space missions or from collisions in space. The mesmerizing video is taken from an interactive graphic published as part of ‘A Place in Space’, the Royal Institution’s advent calendar.

It is estimated there are as many as 370,000 pieces of space junk floating in Earth’s orbit, traveling at speeds of up to 22,000 mph. According to NASA:

There are more than 20,000 pieces of debris larger than a softball orbiting the Earth. They travel at speeds up to 17,500 mph, fast enough for a relatively small piece of orbital debris to damage a satellite or a spacecraft. There are 500,000 pieces of debris the size of a marble or larger. There are many millions of pieces of debris that are so small they can’t be tracked.

The first piece of man-made space junk was the body of the rocket used to launch Sputnik, the first artificial satellite launched by the USSR in 1957 followed by Explorer 1, the first effort from the USA, in 1958. By the first manned mission in 1961, there were already 200 objects orbiting the Earth, with low Earth orbit starting to get packed with debris as man stepped foot on the moon in 1969.

With the establishment of the International Space Station in 1998, there were around 9,000 objects in a stable orbit. China’s 2007 anti-satellite test, which used a missile to destroy an old weather satellite, added more than 3,000 pieces to the debris. In 2009, a defunct Russian satellite collided with and destroyed a functioning US Iridium commercial satellite. The collision added more than 2,000 pieces of trackable debris to the inventory of space junk. By the time we reached 2015, the massive swarming mass of objects had already obscured the view of the Earth.


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9 COMMENTS

  1. Do the satellites and the space debris help to warm the planet up and even the electromagnetic waves that transport communication data helps to warm up the planet too?? remember the microwave oven…

  2. The only problem I see in this is that the white dots that show the location of the debris make the debris seem much larger than it actually is. If the dots were made the actual size the debris was in comparison to the earth, then it would be much less noticeable and seem like much less of a problem. But that doesnt negate the fact that this problem could get much worse if left to proceed on this course

    • Good point.

      If the video was real time/seize showing it would impossible to have any satelite in ourbit of earth without it getting destroyed within 24 hours.

      Sooo in reality the problem is prob not worth talking about in reality.

      And NASA know it, why they do as they do.

      But within 10-20 years i’am sure they will need to clear it up, one stone of maybe a centimeter in daimeter will knock a big whole in any satelite or station out there.

      My guess is they try to set up any satelite or station outside the “belt” of debrees orbiting earth.

      Also remember millions of years of astroids also orbit earth on top of the man made trash out there.

  3. Think about this… If this was the case then why is nasa lying to us because I’ve watched iss fly round earth and neva seen one single bit of junk in there real time videos. It’s bullshit because it’s lies

  4. Blah…come on guys.. Satalites fall all the time.. No building has been hit by a falling apple…never the less.. I think an apple floating at 17,000 mi an hr. Would put a nasa shuttle on its knees while leaving the atmosphere..jeesh… How gullible are u people!??

  5. This planet we share, it ain’t ours. We are only tenants herein. And don’t we treat our tenancy like we only rent it out instaed of caring and looking after it like a good home owner does his house? We don’t care nor maintain it, we expect to be saved and our misadventures herein to be cleaned up for us. Really we do not deserve to say it is ours.

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