Space Debris Threatens the Future of Space Exploration


The high amount of space debris on Earth’s orbit is threatening the satellites and future space missions

After so many years of numerous space exploration missions, a massive amount of space debris accumulated around Earth’s orbit. This is worrying, as the space junk might make future missions difficult to perform. Moreover, the functioning of the satellites orbiting Earth might also be affected.

Space debris accumulated after decades of space exploration

This week, a conference organized in Germany by the European Space Agency discussed the imminent threat posed by the accumulating space debris near the orbit of our planet. The high number of space missions caused a lot of man-made junk which now started gathering in our orbit.

This might affect have a direct effect on the human population. Despite making it harder for scientists to devise successful exploration probes, all other people will be affected, too. The space debris gathers around those satellites used for global communication or those that send information regarding the weather.

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Scientists identified around 750,000 small objects which orbit Earth together with our satellites. They travel at quite a high speed. Thus, if they hit a satellite, they can destroy it. In fact, their speed is high enough to destroy an entire spacecraft.

The pieces of space junk can destroy objects much larger than themselves

These objects might be small but, if they clutter up together, they have the force to destroy much larger objects. They have the potential to do great damage to our society, as the lack of satellites would prevent us from getting weather reports, stock market, live news broadcasts. Basically, we would no longer receive information.

Starting with the launch of the Sputnik satellite in 1957, we began performing a lot of exploration missions in space. Since then, around 5000 such missions have been sent into space. This resulted in a huge amount of space debris which formed when these spacecrafts collided with several objects, exploded, or broke.

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It is hard to establish the exact number of these tiny pieces of junk, but scientists tried to make an estimate. They came up with several ideas on how to reduce the amount of space debris. Now, they are trying to apply these solutions, so that we might avoid future disastrous events. The worst thing that could happen would be the production of more junk as these pieces collide and form more debris.

The reduction of space debris is important for the future of our society, but also for the future of space exploration. As these fast-travelling pieces threaten satellites, they can also destroy crewed spacecrafts. Thus, scientists should protect the future astronauts and continue to perform exploration missions.
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

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