International

Space junk warning

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WHILE India celebrates its achievement in shooting down an orbiting satellite saying it has elevated them to the “elite tier of space powers”, others have a very different viewpoint. Jim Brindenstine, the head of NASA, called the demonstration “a terrible thing” citing the additional 400 pieces of debris that are now orbiting the planet as a result of the military exercise. He said the space agency can only track objects larger than 10cm, of which there are now about an additional 60. The rest, each one a potential disaster waiting to happen for any man made object it hits, are floating around on an unknown orbit. Mr Brindenstine said much of the space junk is now above the International Space Station, a dangerous situation and “the kind of activity that is not compatible with the future of human spaceflight”.

NASA is currently tracking 23,000 objects around the Earth’s orbit larger than 10cm, an estimated 10,000 of them man made. 3,000 of these were created in a similar event, a Chinese anti-satellite test in 2007. It is an almost impossible thing to measure but estimates are that there are now around a million pieces of debris larger than a marble circulating the Earth, each travelling at around 28,000 kilometres per hour.

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