Published on Apr 25, 2013
Experts have estimated that there are 29,000 objects 10 cm or larger orbiting Earth. Only 7 percent are working satellites. The European Space Agency is looking at ways to mitigate the threat.
Space debris problem now urgent – scientists
AFP – Governments must start working urgently to remove orbital debris, which could become a catastrophic problem for satellites a few decades from now, a space science conference heard on Thursday.
Since 1978, the total of junk items whizzing around the planet has tripled, said Heiner Klinkrad, head of the European Space Agency’s Space Debris Office.
“There is a wide and strong expert consensus on the pressing need to act now to begin debris removal activities,” he said in an ESA press release at the end of a four-day conference in Darmstadt, Germany.
“Our understanding of the growing space debris problem can be compared with our understanding of the need to address Earth’s changing climate some 20 years ago,” he said.
According to a count by ESA and NASA, there are more than 23,000 items in orbit that are bigger than 10 centimetres (four inches) across, and hundreds of thousands of items between one and 10 cms (0.4 to four inches) across.
Even though these items are relatively small and there is a lot of room in orbit, any collision could be calamitous because of the high level of kinetic energy.
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