How much stuff is in orbit around the Earth and is it dangerous?
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?
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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. They track 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 blow up an old weather satellite. It added 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.

Source URL: https://www.tweentribune.com/article/tween78/how-much-stuff-orbit-around-earth-and-it-dangerous/

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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 (64)
  • jasond-cam
    11/05/2015 - 01:25 p.m.

    There is a lot of little space junk that could hit a person in space. They travel 10 times as fast as a bullet
    and would hit a person like 25 sticks of dynamite.Half a million space junks are orbiting around earth.

  • christianb-cal
    11/05/2015 - 04:51 p.m.

    This is a very interesting artical, is it really true? I would like to learn more about the space junk that goes in a ring around earth!

  • gabriellek-1-bar
    11/05/2015 - 09:15 p.m.

    The United States Department of Defense only tracks space junk larger than a softball because it states, " 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." This article is interesting because I didn't know that scientist were trying to invent a laser that would zap space junk out of the orbit of our planet. I found this surprising when the Chinese blew up an old satellite creating 30,000 more "killer" pieces of junk.

  • aidanp-1-bar
    11/05/2015 - 09:47 p.m.

    If they tracked all of the space junk, it would be too much. Most space junk stays in goes at the same speed as the other space junk that it was once apart of.

  • sofiat-4-bar
    11/05/2015 - 09:54 p.m.

    The United States Department of Defense only track space junk larger than a softball because that is the size it becomes dangerous at. If one of these peices were to colide with another it would not just be to peices of space junk falling to the earth they would break into many small peices and fall to the earth with the force of bullets and have the impact of 25 sticks of dynamite.

  • matthewp-6-bar
    11/05/2015 - 10:11 p.m.

    The United States Department of defense might only track space junk larger than a softball because it would be very hard to track pieces smaller than a softball that are going at the super fast speeds.This is shown in the article by,"Space junk is moving at about 10 times the speed of a bullet," at those speeds it would be very hard to track a small piece of space junk. Also the smaller pieces may not do a lot of damage to whatever the piece hits. My opinion about the topic of the article is that people should make something to destroy the space junk without splitting the piece into a ton of smaller pieces like the Chinese did with the satellite.

  • jacks-6-bar
    11/05/2015 - 10:43 p.m.

    The United States Department of Defense only tracks space junk larger than a softball probably because it's the only relevant size of debris out there. After all, these sizes can impact with the force of 25 sticks of dynamite! (that's quite large force for a softball-sized object) That's probably what it takes to do any harm at the least to anything, so that's why it might be their minimum size to track-- it's the only thing worth caring about. Another reason our Department of Defense might track junk this large and up might be because they can't see smaller objects whipping around the Earth at amazing speeds, even with telescopes; the fact that they are so small and so fast-- it must be nearly impossible to see them.

  • seans-2-bar
    11/05/2015 - 10:48 p.m.

    The United States Department of Defense may only be able to track space junk that is larger than a softball, or perhaps only the space junk mentioned above cannot harm a satellite or spacecraft unless it is a certain size. However an object moving 10 times the speed of a bullet even if it is small could to a lot of damage as stated in the article. This article brilliantly explained the danger of space junk.

  • mayaw-6-bar
    11/05/2015 - 10:53 p.m.

    The United States Department of Defense might only track space junk larger than a softball space junk moves to fast, and it's harder to track. The United States Department of Defense does not track space junk smaller than a softball because it moves to fast, for example when two pieces of space junk collide they become many smaller pieces, and it would be to hard to track all of the smaller pieces of space junk. Also, the United States Department of Defense might not track space junk smaller than a softball because it moves to fast, as it says in paragraph 4, " 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." This is extremely fast, and the United States Department of Defense should only track space junk that can oppose a large threat to society. I find this article interesting because it's amazing how something so far away can impact Earth so greatly. One thing I am wondering is how a baseball glove would get in space.

  • jacks-6-bar
    11/05/2015 - 10:54 p.m.

    I found this article informative, but also scary. I never knew all the "junk" us humans placed in our orbit could be so deadly!

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