What happens to space junk?

The human species has managed to leave its trash not just on its own planet, Earth, but out into Space.

As a consequence this junk is a potential collision threat to all future space vehicles and those already present like the International Space Station.

More than 27,000 pieces of orbital debris, or “space junk,” are tracked by the Department of Defense’s global Space Surveillance Network (SSN) sensors. Much more debris — too small to be tracked, but large enough to threaten human spaceflight and robotic missions — exists in the near-Earth space environment.  Since both the debris and spacecraft are traveling at extremely high speeds (approximately 15,700 mph in low Earth orbit), an impact of even a tiny piece of orbital debris with a spacecraft could create big problems.


The remains of the car that Elon Musk launched into space in 2018 is now hurtling around the sun at 63,592 miles per hour, being bombarded by solar radiation.

Reactions is a video series produced by the American Chemical Society and PBS Digital Studios. How long does Musk’s car take to break down, and how is that car looking right about now…?

credit: The American Chemical Society

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