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

Assign to Google Classroom

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.

Filed Under:  
Assigned 75 times
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)
  • afrikab-ric
    11/09/2015 - 11:22 a.m.

    The United States department probably only tracks space junk larger than a softball because they don't want anything too big out there. Other people, such as NASA will take care of the other things. U.S Department can not take care of everything. So, they get the most harmful things out of the way.

  • tiaj-ric
    11/09/2015 - 11:24 a.m.

    Something bigger that a softball moves faster than a bullet. Ten times the speed of a bullet. If the object was to come down to Earth it would hit someone hard. It will " hit you with the power of 25 sticks of dynamite."

  • jaylaw-ric
    11/09/2015 - 11:27 a.m.

    They track things bigger than a soft ball because that's a n average ball to be in the space. a soft ball is big so it will create a bigger damage and that will be worse that a little bouncy ball. A soft ball and that's why they control things bigger than a soft ball.

  • mcshunw-ric
    11/09/2015 - 12:35 p.m.

    The US Department of defense might only track these items because they might need something of use. They can use space junk to rebuild a lot of things. Just using your every day items. They could also do this for protetion. Also something the size of a softball coming at you 10 times faster than a bullet would hurt.

  • crystala-ric
    11/09/2015 - 12:35 p.m.

    the united states may only track that amount sized space junk because it is the most dangerous. from what i understood about the article is the size of a softball and larger can cause the most damaged junk sizes because of the force they hit with.most of the space junk is large because like the things like a satellite it is larger than a soft ball so more harm.now there are some good people trying to invent a tool to zap space junk into ashes and not be of any harm.

  • saml-ric
    11/09/2015 - 12:38 p.m.

    The United states Department of Defense only tracks space junk larger than a softball because something lighter and smaller than a softball wouldn't have a very good chance of falling out of orbit. A pan would have a greater chance of falling out of orbit. And a pan would be easier for a bigger piece of space junk to crash into the pan than a small piece of a action figure hitting a pan. To support my answer I gathered this from the text,"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."

  • sydneyb1-ric
    11/09/2015 - 01:34 p.m.

    The United Stated Department of Defense might only track space junk larger than a softball because it's more dangerous. The space junk becomes millions of missiles racing around the earth. Instead of two big ones. The space junk also travels at about ten times of speed of a bullet. It will hit you like a stick of dynamite.

  • stephaniem1-ric
    11/09/2015 - 01:37 p.m.

    The United States department of Defense only track space junk larger than a softball because they are trying to make sure nothing happens to the planet. If something does wrong in space it can damage the planet we live today. Or other planets and it can damage other planets. For example is something is to heavy it can fall into Earth and hit us. another example is if the object ever falls and hits another object or the damage can occur into maybe hitting the satellites.

  • micaht-ric
    11/09/2015 - 01:38 p.m.

    The United states department might only track space junk larger than a softball because A something smaller or the size of a softball will not bother anything to the earth . But something bigger than a softball can harm surroundings it falls on. It says in the article "a piece of space junk that size is moving 10 times the speed of a bullet." This can harm a person a building or just anything so the Department of defense is just helping because anything smaller than a softball won't harm anything.

  • addiey-ric
    11/09/2015 - 03:53 p.m.

    They might only track items bigger than a softball because those are the ones that are most dangerous. Those could potentially dangerous. They can hit the earth really hard and cause the same amount of damage as 25 sticks of dynamite.

Take the Quiz Leave a comment
ADVERTISEMENT