A report released on Thursday says that it is time for NASA to clean up all the space junk that’s been accumulated over the years, according to the National Research Council.
The committee issuing the report said we are at a “flipping point.” The junk needs to be cleaned up to help satellites and spacecraft avoid running into it. However, NASA lacks the staffing to deal with it properly.
There are enough pieces of smashed satellites, meteroids, and trash orbiting the planet to pose a real risk. Not only does NASA need a formal strategic plan for managing the threat, but the space agency may need to launch a project to clean up some of the clutter and junk.
“The current space environment is growing increasingly hazardous to spacecraft and astronauts,” Donald Kessler, chairman of the committee that wrote the report and retired head of NASA’s Orbital Debris Program Office, said in a statement.
There are 22,000 objects in orbit that are as big as a softball for officials on the ground to track, They are also able to track smaller bits and pieces that could do damage to human-carrying spaceships and valuable satellites, which is about 500,000 pieces. The International Space Station has to move out of the way of debris from time to time. “We’ve lost control of the environment,” said Kessler
At 17,000 mph, even a tiny piece of metal can penetrate a spacecraft’s protective skin or tear a hole in an astronaut’s space suit. And at that speed, a collision can blow apart a valuable satellite. The report says NASA has to re-think the management structure that deals with the junk problem.