It's busier up there than it looks. Concentration of orbital debris in low Earth orbit within 2,000km of earth's surface Image: NASA Orbital Debris Program Office
The object population in geosynchronous orbit. Image: NASA Orbital Debris Program Office
Space junk threatens global communications Image: NASA Orbital Debris Program Office
The 70 m Goldstone antenna, which is capable of detecting 2 mm debris at altitudes below 1,000 km Image: NASA Orbital Debris Program Office
Space drive by? No that’s view of an orbital debris hole made in the panel of the Solar Max experiment. Image: NASA Orbital Debris Program Office
When we are born, we soil ourselves and other people clean it up for us. As we mature, we take responsibility for our own excrement. Strangely, as a society, we're not at all good at toilet training ourselves regarding the excrement produced by industry, transport or agriculture. Human beings capacity to eschew short term gain when faced with long term harm is notoriously woeful so it’s not surprising we've done exactly the same thing in space, leaving so much debris that it's now dangerous to be in the orbital band around earth due to the likelihood of being hit by junk traveling at 18,000 mph. The latest evidence: last week saw the first ever accidental collision between two intact spacecraft, a deactivated Russian satellite and an Iridium 33 satellite, which left a fresh cloud of debris 497 miles above the Earth.
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