Maybe it was the hubris of scientists who didn’t think that leaving their junk in space would cause issues. I mean, with all that space up there who could blame them? Unfortunately, that junk is going to become a bigger problem real soon if action isn’t taken.
The International Space Station had to be shifted last month in order to protect it from a piece of debris smaller than the palm of your hand. The ISS is roughly the size of a football field which you would think would be able to withstand a hit from a 4 inch object, but with the amount of vital systems exposed to outside interference, that one piece of debris, traveling faster than a speeding bullet, could essentially take the whole system down. Scary, huh?
And that’s not all. The chance that a launching rocket will collide with space junk is now at about 1% according to experts talking to NewsOK, with roughly 19,000 objects smaller than 4 inches and 500,000 objects between zero and ten centimeters taking up permanent residence in our atmosphere. That’s one out of every 100 launches that has potential to be taken down by a bolt or screw that has gotten left up there. With the prospect of human space flight rearing its head, this is something that could not only cost NASA millions of dollars in equipment, but also many human lives could easily be lost.
The biggest problem facing potential space travelers now is the exponential increase of junk. Referred to as Kessler Syndrome, the debris currently orbiting the Earth runs into other stuff which breaks into even more debris and so on. Simply put, junk begets junk, and eventually we’re going to have to find a way to start cleaning it up. See my proposal for a solution below.