Space Junk in Orbit

Cameron Baker, MVC Staff Wrtier

Traveling at an average speed of 28,000 kilometers per hour, 1,100 satellites are in orbit around the earth. That’s a lot of satellites traveling really fast in different directions around the earth. As of December 2016, five satellite collisions have generated space debris. Space debris is also known as orbital debris, space junk, space waste, space trash, space litter or space garbage.

The junk in our orbit is a threat to current satellites, and future space programs. This junk will eventually collide with each other, creating a domino effect of more and more fast-traveling space bits. Many astrophysicists agree that eventually this could get so bad that we will no longer be able to travel out of our atmosphere.

Many ideas have been proposed to help clean up this space junk, but none have been implemented yet. Some of these ideas include sending a vacuum robot into space to clean up the orbit much like you would clean your carpet at home. The main problem with cleaning the space junk up is that it may create more in the process. So far, scientists cannot get anything into orbit without multiple stages of rockets, and those stages split off of the rocket as its traveling. Thus, when the stages are released from the main rocket, they end up in orbit as useless space junk. In order to get a vacuum robot into space, they would need to find a way to minimize the space junk it creates and maximize its cleaning efficiency.

Overall, this could be a tricky problem for humanity. As space has become our final frontier, our efforts to colonize it could be halted permanently if we do not act quickly. We could very well be building a jail cell out of our orbit.