Humans clearly have a trash problem on Earth, but our track record isn’t that much better in outer space, where tens of thousands of stray debris fragments whip around the planet at rip-roaring speeds, posing a very serious danger to astronauts and satellites.
I wasn’t worried. Were you worried?
A rogue chunk of debris that orbited Earth far beyond the Moon is making a homecoming on November 13th, astronomers have concluded. WT1190F is one to two meters in length and probably hollow, but beyond that, we have no idea WTF the aptly-named piece of space garbage is.
January 1, 1963: This is what happens when a piece of space junk hits a spacecraft in orbit. While gorgeous, the energy flash of a hypervelocity impact packs a serious punch.
About two hours ago—at about 8AM EST this morning—a piece of an old Russian-built weather satellite sped by the International Space Station, dangerously close to the station. It’s the fourth time that astronauts aboard the ISS have “sheltered” because of space junk.
Something lit up the sky over a whole swath of the lower Eastern states last night, catching eyes all the way from Florida up through West Virginia. So what are we looking at here? A meteor, perhaps, or a fireball? Nope, it’s actually something a lot stranger.
In space, all it takes is a tiny grain of junk travelling at high speeds to create a very, very bad day.
How will we clean up the giant (and steadily increasing) trash vortex that swirls around our little blue planet? Perhaps by harpooning it with these space fishing nets.
Just what are all those tiny, swirling dots swooping gracefully around the Earth? Are those pinprick points the ghosts of far away stars? Perhaps they are the gaseous remains of some far away nebula? Or, maybe, it's just a giant orbital swarm of trash.
While terrestrial humans tolerate stinky, sticky garbage trucks, our astronaut brethren opt for something much more beautiful for their disposal runs. This streak of fire across the night sky is the burning of the Cygnus spacecraft, dirty laundry, and other junk. On the flip side, garbage day is a lot less frequent.
Although the International Space Station has a pair of self-repairing robots, most artificial objects in orbit aren't nearly as lucky. Sooner or later, satellites reach the end of their useful life. When this happens, they either drop down and burn up during re-entry, or are sent to the satellite graveyard.
What goes up toward space can come crashing down again—in the plains of Texas and the deserts of Saudi Arabia, through barn roofs and into the Amazon. Check out these photographs of battered and decaying pieces of rocketry that are now merely space junk.http://io9.com/5986635/the-we...
The Payload Assist Motor of the Delta rocket upper stage (PAM-D) is almost freaky in its durability. In 2011, another chunk of would-be space junk survived re-entry, crashing as a recognizable sphere instead of burning up in the atmosphere.
The Sherif's Office in Moffat County, Colorado was in for a shock on March 22, 2011 when their Lost and Found office acquired a mysterious new find. It was a metal sphere, 30 inches in diameter, with Cyrillic markings.
Not all junk stays in orbit, and not all things that land are found. A Delta 2 rocket launched in 1990, re-entering the atmosphere within months. Yet it took 18 years to discover the rocket casing on a cattle station in the Australian outback.
The space near Earth is crowded with all sorts of junk, everything from collision debris to spent rocket stages, dead spacecraft to paint flecks from chipped logos. While hazardous to spacecraft, the space junk is certainly pretty against an ocean backdrop with lots of sun-glint.
Just 34 hours after the European Space Agency's Sentinel-1A spacecraft separated from its carrier rocket, it nearly smashed into a dead NASA satellite.
Hint: It probably won't involve astronauts.
Japan's space agency, JAXA, is testing a giant, magnetic space net as a way to clean up space junk. Over at The New Scientist, they take a closer look at just what we can expect from the 700-meter long aluminum and steel net, set to launch next month.