While on Earth, humans are polluting the air, the land and the oceans, the space around the earth too is reachable for them since the "Space-Age" has started. Space Pollution -- according to Wikipedia -- is space waste/debris/junk i.e. defunct artificial & man-made objects in space — principally in Earth orbit— which no longer serve a useful function.

Since the start of the space age in 1957, about 6170 (excluding failed missions) rockets have been launched putting about 12,450 satellites into Earth orbit however only 5,000 of these satellites are still functioning, according to the data by European Space Agency (ESA) 's Space Debris Office at ESOC, Darmstadt, Germany.

How Much Space Debris Is There ?

According to the ESA, there are 128 million objects the size of 1 mm to 1 cm, 9,00,000 objects the size of 1 cm to 10 cm, and 34,000 objects greater 10 cm currently whizzing around our planet. Many of these objects are traveling around our planet at roughly 28,163.52 kph, or about 10 times faster than a bullet. 

Total mass of all space objects in Earth orbit is more than 9800 tonnes, reported ESA. The data is latest updated till January 5.


via GIPHY

According to the NASA data, there are approximately 23,000 pieces of debris larger than a softball orbiting the Earth. They travel at speeds up to 17,500 mph, fast enough for a relatively small piece of orbital debris to damage a satellite or a spacecraft. There are half a million pieces of debris the size of a marble or larger (up to 0.4 inches, or 1 centimeter) or larger, and approximately 100 million pieces of debris about .04 inches (or one millimeter) and larger. There is even more smaller micrometer-sized (0.000039 of an inch in diameter) debris.

The NASA Orbital Debris Program Office has gathered pictures and graphics of space debris, as of January 1, 2019. In the below NASA video the dots represent the current location of each orbital debris -


Space debris can be hazardous to active satellites and spacecraft in the Earth's orbit. It has been theorized that Earth orbit could even become impassable to travel along, if the risk of collision grows too high.

A number of space shuttle windows were replaced because of damage caused by tiny flecks of peeling paints. In fact, millimeter-sized orbital debris represents the highest mission-ending risk to most robotic spacecraft operating in low Earth orbit.

In 1996, a French satellite was hit and damaged by debris from a French rocket that had exploded a decade earlier.

Space Junk Record Holders

In a latest this year, astronomers have predicted that an old space junk, which is of Elon Musk promoted company SpaceX's rocket called "Falcon 9" that was launched nearly 7-years ago, will now crash into the moon on March 4, 2022, at a blistering speed of 5,771 mph (9,288 km/h).

China's 2007 anti-satellite test, which used a missile to destroy an old weather satellite, added more than 3,500 pieces of large, trackable debris and many more smaller debris to the debris problem.

On Feb. 10, 2009, a defunct Russian spacecraft collided with and destroyed a functioning U.S. Iridium commercial spacecraft. The collision added more than 2,300 pieces of large, trackable debris and many more smaller debris to the inventory of space junk.
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