How much stuff is in orbit around the Earth and is it dangerous? (Thinkstock)
How much stuff is in orbit around the Earth and is it dangerous?
Lexile

You asked us, "How much stuff is in orbit around the Earth and is it dangerous?"
 
NASA tracks some half a million pieces of space junk - everything from bits of defunct satellites to the occasional lost glove or spatula. 
 
And the United States Department of Defense tracks everything larger than a softball - about 20,000 of them. 
 
Why? Because a piece of space junk that size is moving at about 10 times the speed of a bullet and will hit you with the power of 25 sticks of dynamite.
 
Worse, when space junk runs into other space junk, it doesn't just fall into earth's atmosphere and burn up. 
 
It becomes millions of little missiles racing around the earth - instead of two big ones.
 
Thank goodness we can always count on a little help from our friends. 
 
Take the Chinese, for example. In 2007, they decided to show off their fancy new anti-satellite missile system - and blew up an old weather satellite. Adding another 3,000 pieces of killer junk to the problem. 
 
On the upside, our mates in Australia are working on a laser to zap space junk out of orbit.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why might the United States Department of Defense only track space junk larger than a softball?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (72)
  • rileyd1-rob
    11/05/2015 - 01:47 p.m.

    Outside our universe there are thousands of satellites. it basically shows how much the world has evolved overtime,however they left out one important fact;how you get rid of it.

  • lukeh2-man
    11/06/2015 - 08:58 a.m.

    Because a piece of space junk that size is moving at about 10 times the speed of a bullet and will hit you with the power of 25 sticks of dynamite.

  • mathewb-day
    11/06/2015 - 05:42 p.m.

    Having this space junk orbiting Earth is a disaster waiting to happen. The kinetic energy created by any of the junk could easily hurt some one through direct impact, or if it struck a building could ruin the stability and have the building collapse on several people.

  • ianc-day
    11/06/2015 - 10:20 p.m.

    There is stuff above us that could come down at any moment and kill us. That's just Great. I knew there was junk in space but not millions of pieces of junk. We should make a plain to help prevent this stuff from falling from space. An object coming from space would be faster than a bullet and would be very dangerous.

    • nathanz506-sta
      11/10/2015 - 03:05 p.m.

      It would probably burn up in the earth's atmosphere. So yeah, it probably won't kill us.




      I think.

    • reenaf-ren
      1/05/2016 - 10:17 a.m.

      I also think that everything orbiting around the Earth is really dangerous.

  • tylers-day
    11/07/2015 - 11:40 a.m.

    I wonder, if all those pieces shot at earth all at once could it make all of the earths species extinct. It's kind of scary to think that there is so much dangerous debris floating around the earth. Also knowing how the dinosaurs were extinct it could also happen to us too.

    • brycea-ren
      1/05/2016 - 10:32 a.m.

      I disagree, because it is a very slim chance that all of the space junk would fall at once. And, if it were to all fall at once, it would not deal that much damage. This is because, there would not be enough space junk to wipe out humankind. Though it would be catastrophic, the human race would still be space.

  • jordynd-day
    11/08/2015 - 09:53 a.m.

    This makes me really angry. Not only do we pollute the Earth itself, but we pollute space, too? I wish there was more to do about this. I applaud Australia for trying to fix this. Shame on the human population!

    • brycea-ren
      1/05/2016 - 10:35 a.m.

      I agree, as you would think that humans would learn from polluting the Earth. But no, like you said, we have to go ahead and pollute space. Also, it angers me that China has to make it even worse!

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