Space Junk Rising Exponentially (and No, It’s Not Man-Made)

Scientists warn of ‘tipping point’ but shuttle’s demise means there is no easy way to remove defunct satellites

The amount of junk in space is rising exponentially, with continuous collisions between abandoned equipment, spent rockets and other debris creating ever growing clouds of dangerous fragments, an influential report warned on Thursday.

The report, commissioned by NASA, says the quantity of hazardous material circling the Earth has reached a “tipping point” and poses a real and increasing danger to satellites and the International Space Station.

It suggests developing a clean-up strategy, which could include catching debris with nets, magnets or giant umbrellas.

The US National Research Council was asked to review the space agency’s meteoroid and orbital debris programmes last April following a request from the White House. Meteoroids are particles or larger lumps of rock in the solar system.

“The current space environment is growing increasingly hazardous to spacecraft and astronauts,” said Donald Kessler, chair of the committee responsible for the report and a retired head of NASA’s orbital debris programme ….

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