Turns out that picking up after oneself is still something human being is finding hard even in space

Litter all over the place is not a new phenomenon with humankind. From land to water masses, it is a common occurrence. What’s even more interesting is that it is no different when it comes to space matters. This information comes from The University of Texas at Austin’s associate professor of aerospace engineering, Moriba Jah. He is in the right position to make such a statement since he maps objects orbiting the Earth, precisely garbage from human beings. His information source is space images from governmental or commercial satellite owners and operators, including the U.S. Department of Defense. Moriba and his team based in the Oden Institute have a database, crowdsourced and multi-source, which helps them get the images.

Space launches have been in existence for a relatively long time. As a matter of fact, it is over half a century since the first launch, Sputnik 1, since it took place in 1957 on 4th October. Ever since then, more rockets have followed suit and the number up to date exceeds 5,000. Each launch saw the lift-off of various objects, including satellites and parts of the rockets left orbiting the Earth. Interestingly, there are thousands of satellites in orbit that are dysfunctional. According to Jah, the estimated number of objects that are traceable by humans since their sizes allow it is 26,000. Reasonable sizes include those of cellphone, the smallest, and a space station, for the largest. However, only a tiny fraction of the figure isn’t defunct since they are only 3,000. Therefore, it goes without saying that the rest are no longer in use.

In addition to the functional satellites, others no longer work as they were decommissioned once their purpose lapsed. Spacewalks also saw the likes of astronaut gloves float away, resulting in more litter up there. Others include parts of rockets, nuts, and bolts. One can’t also fail to mention that in 2018, Elon Musk launched a Tesla in space, which means it is still there.

Besides the large objects, some are as small as a millimeter. In total, man has made and launched approximately 166 million space objects so far.  According to Jah, most of the waste is in the Low Earth Orbit. That’s up to 12000 km from the Earth. He also added that without changing how everyone views space, including policymakers, investors, and the public at large, there would be dire consequences eventually. After all, the defunct objects could collide with the functioning ones and, in return, destroy them. A lot of work, time, and investment would be lost, indeed.


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