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Japanese Space Agency Will Pick Up Our Space Trash With A Big Magnetic Net

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space netHumans don’t just litter on planet Earth — our waste has made it all the way to space. But especially after seeing Gravity, it’s difficult to imagine any astronauts wanting to mess with all the space junk out there. So JAXA, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, has come up with a solution: a big ol’ magnetic net to round up all our space trash.

There’s far more space junk out there than we could imagine — hundreds of thousands of chunks from our various satellites and other spacecraft are, just as they do in Gravity, orbiting the planet at great speeds. A report released a couple weeks ago by the Congressional Research Service estimates that “roughly 22,000 objects larger than the size of a softball and hundreds of thousands of smaller fragments” litter Earth’s orbit, and that this debris “potentially threatens U.S. national security interests in space, both governmental (military, intelligence, and civil) and commercial.” Even a small object, about 10 centimeters wide,m could destroy a satellite. In 2007, China launched an anti-satellite test — a missile that blew apart one of their old weather satellites and generated a large percentage of the debris mentioned in the earlier figure. Just a couple of years later, a U.S. commercial satellite ran into an old Russian satellite, generating even more debris. There’s so much space trash out there that experts worry that it could cause serious collisions every 5-9 years. Astrophysicist Donald Kessler was worried about this back in the 1970s — the Kessler syndrome is an ongoing process of collisions generating ever more space debris.