Thursday, February 12, 2009

Getting Crowded Out There

Usually, when we think of pictures of the Earth taken from space, they're beautiful shots of our little blue marble, hung in the vast void of space. You don't often get pictures that show the increasing amount of junk that's floating around in orbit, however. Over the decades, we as a species has hoisted thousands of things into orbit, many of whom simply don't work any more and are left up there to collect space dust.

It's so crowded that things are starting to smack into each other:

Space officials in Russia and the United States were on Thursday tracking hundreds of pieces of debris that were spewed into space when a U.S. satellite collided with a defunct Russian military satellite.

The crash, which Russian officials said took place on Tuesday at about 1700 GMT (12:00 p.m. EST) above northern Siberia, is the first publicly known satellite collision and has raised concerns about the safety of the manned International Space Station.
So the United States Joint Space Operations Center can add about 600 new pieces of debris to the 18,000 in orbit they were already tracking. That's a lot of junk.

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