What is space junk and why it can be harmful?
In 2016, an astronaut of the European Space AgencyTim Peek shared a photo on social media of a quite large dent in the window of the International Space Station. As it turned out, the reason for its appearance was a small piece of space junk.
You may ask how can such a tiny object do noticeable damage? It’s all about speed “- astronomers from the University of Arizona say. According to data provided by the European Space Agency, objects at an altitude of about 400 kilometers above Earth turn around our planet every 90 minutes. This is more than 25,200 kilometers per hour, which is 10 times the speed of the average bullet shot on Earth. Impact energy is related not only to the size of the object but to its speed. This is why a small bullet can do a lot of damage. Any object can be dangerous when moving at a sufficiently high speed.
According to the European Space Agency, a fragment the size of a microbe can only leave a dent, a fragment the size of a pea could harm important flight systems, and a piece of junk the size of a table tennis ball would be a disaster. At this size, space junk can quickly depressurize the space station and it will be impossible for astronauts to breathe on board.
Space junk is a problem that is now beginning to grow. It is believed that there are nearly 128 million pieces of junk in Earth’s orbit, and 34,000 of them are more than 10 centimeters in size, and these are only fragments that are large enough to be noticed. These smaller pieces are formed when larger ones of space junk collide or when satellites are deliberately destroyed. Larger pieces include 3,000 abandoned satellites, as well as bolts and other parts dropped by spaceships during launches. By tracking space junk, scientists can tell companies when they should move a spacecraft out of the trajectory of the space junk. Since 1999, it was performed 25 such maneuvers. Now we are still far from this problem, but it is important to get ahead of the problem of space junk in order to prevent its further accumulation.
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