A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying Starlink satellites launches on Aug. 19, 2022. The Falcon 9 is a reusable rocket and its re-entry is controlled after launch, reducing debris.
(Malcolm Denemark/Florida Today via AP)
Rockets used to launch satellites fall back to Earth, and as their number grows, the risk faced by people living on the ground — or flying in airplanes — increases.
There are more than 100 missions to the Moon planned in the coming years, including the next Artemis missions.
With more than 100 lunar missions planned in coming years, space junk near the Moon could become an issue for humanity. No agency tracks lunar space junk, so two astronomers decided to do it themselves.
European Space Agency
To date, not a single orbiting object has been recovered from space successfully. But several methods are in development to reduce the overpopulation of Earth’s orbit by man-made debris.
Frame Stock Footage/Shutterstock
The southern hemisphere is more likely to be hit by space debris than the northern one.
Space debris produced by anti-satellite weapons can have dangerous consequences.
Russia’s testing of an anti-satellite weapon risked the life of astronauts on the International Space Station and could have astronomical impacts on Earth.
Artist’s view of traceable debris around the Earth - the debris is shown magnified relative to the size of the Earth.
A Russian satellite has been destroyed in a missile strike, creating a vast amount of debris that joins the tens of thousands of pieces already in orbit around the Earth.
If a satellite is destroyed, the debris fans out in orbit and poses serious threats to other satellites or crewed spacecraft.
ESA/ID&Sense/ONiRiXEL via WikimediaCommons
Russia destroyed one of its old satellites during a successful test of an anti-satellite weapon. A space security expert explains what this weapon was and the dangers of the expanding debris field.
NASA / Boeing
A close call for the International Space Station highlights the growing problem of space junk putting satellites at risk.
It’s unlikely falling space junk will destroy property or kill a person.
Petrovich9/iStock via Getty Images
Chances are small that space junk will destroy property or harm a person, and existing space law could deal with such an event. But current law doesn’t address the bigger problem of space pollution.
China’s Long March 5B rocket, part of which will plummet back to Earth in the coming weeks.
China’s Long March 5B rocket, after a successful blast-off in April to deliver a space station module, is now on track to crash-land somewhere with a latitude between New York and New Zealand.
Earth orbit is filling up with satellites and space junk. Technological fixes can only go so far to deal with the problem.
Congestion in the sky.
The shift toward mega-constellations is a challenge for global space governance.
A shooting star during the Perseid meteor shower. Soon, thousands of satellites will crowd the night sky.
SpaceX’s satellites will populate the night sky, affecting how we observe the stars. And this is just the beginning of private satellite mega-constellations.
A partial lunar eclipse above the Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire in 2019.
Peter Byrne/PA Archive/PA Images
Radio telescopes are incredibly sensitive to phone network interference.
The now defunct Infrared Astronomical Telescope was one of the satellites involved in the near-collision.
Two defunct satellites passed within metres of one another, prompting renewed focus on the dangers of space debris. But with many satellites treated as military secrets, how do we track the hazards?
Satellites monitor climate change, guide people with GPS and keep us connected through texts and social media, but they’re under threat.
Perhaps in 50 more years we will be sick of hearing stories from people who have travelled to the moon and back.
tdlucas5000 / AAP
In the future we might get sick of hearing people tell their stories about going to the Moon. Perhaps the Moon will just be like thinking about today’s Antarctica – a remote but accessible place.
There are tens of thousands of pieces of space debris orbiting the Earth, and the amount is growing.
There needs to be an international approach regarding the management and disposal of space junk.
Perhaps hoping for an election boost, India’s Prime Minister Modi announces that Indian scientists shot down a live satellite at a low-earth orbit.
Jaipal Singh / AAP
On 27 March, India announced it had successfully conducted an anti-satellite missile test, Mission Shakti. India is now the fourth country in the world displaying this capability.
A large, sea jelly-like antenna shadow from the Apollo 14 mission in 1971.
This year the Apollo 11 mission turns 50 - but what does the future hold for the Moon? The ephemeral shadows cast by human artefacts may soon be joined by more permanent scars of lunar mining.