Space Debris - A new report warns the amount of debris in space is endangering satellites and space missions. For over 50 years now we have been launching satellites into space to explore our planet and the rest of the universe. But satellites are very expensive so in order to save money after they are dead we just leave them to orbit forever, becoming space debris and polluting low earth orbit. This pollution is dangerous to current and future satellites because these objects are moving so fast, that if they collide the results are devastating. Such was the case of the Iridium-Cosmos collision in 2009 that turned 2 objects into 1500 much smaller objects.
The amount of orbital debris (10 centimeters in diameter and larger) tracked by the U.S. Space Surveillance Network jumped from 9,949 cataloged objects in December 2006 to 16,094 in July 2011.
The uncontrolled fall of the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite back to earth early morning September 24, 2011 appears to have not hurt anyone but - NASA put the chances that somebody somewhere on Earth could get hurt at 1-in-3,200. But any 'one' person's odds of being struck were estimated at 1-in-22 trillion, given there are 7 billion people on the planet.
"This is not an uncommon event; space debris is re-entering out atmosphere all the time," said William Ailor, director of the Center for Orbital and Reentry Debris Studies at The Aerospace Corporation in California. "We are trying to learn everything that we can about orbital and re-entry debris so that we can protect space missions and human interests on the ground."
More: BBC news video on space debris here: www.youtube.com
Report "Limiting Future Collision Risk to Spacecraft: An Assessment of NASA's Meteoroid and Orbital Debris Programs" www.nap.edu