Space debris needs cleaning

Space debris needs cleaning

Human curiosity is boundless. We marvel at the world around us. We drive ourselves to explore the depths of our oceans and to reach for the stars in the heavens above. Yet, as our technological prowess grows, so do some of the attendant dangers.

It was in 1957 that Sputnik, the first satellite, was sent into orbit around the Earth. Since then we have colonised our atmosphere. But there has been a far-reaching side-effect: space debris.

Even small fragments of trash in space can wreak havoc. Recently, NEE-01 Pegaso, Ecuador's first satellite that measured only 10cm wide, was struck off course as it collided with debris from an old Soviet rocket.

Nasa estimates some 500,000 particles between 1cm and 10cm in diameter are in orbit around Earth. These particles are large enough to shred the solar panels of space stations and send small satellites swerving off into outer space. These specks can spend decades up in space, before they re-enter the Earth's atmosphere and burn out under the intense heat.

We need to clean up space - and fast.

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