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The Spring 2011 issue of The Earth Scientist is focused on modernizing seismology education. Thanks to IRIS, you can download this issue for free as a pdf. Print copies are available in our online store.
View of satellite population including space debris - taken from low Earth orbit.
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NASA

Junk in Space!
News story originally written on June 30, 1997

Whether on Earth or in Space, human activity creates waste. Like the Earth's environment, the space environment is getting more and more cluttered. There are currently millions of man-made orbital ruins that make up "space junk". Unfortunately, the past 30 years of space exploration have generated a lot of junk. Orbital debris includes things such as hatches blown off space modules, paint fragments from the space shuttle, or satellites that are no longer in use.

Man-made debris orbits at a speed of roughly 17,500 miles/hour! Think of the damage even a small speck of paint could do if it hit a spacecraft at such a high speed!

Spacecraft must be protected by shields that are not hurt when they get hit with space junk. NASA tested different types of shielding in the Long Duration Exposure Facility (LDEF). The LDEF was put in orbit April 1984 by the Shuttle Challenger. It was collected 5.7 years later.

Besides having shielding from space junk, a spacecraft can move out of the way to avoid getting hit by debris. Currently, the Aerospace Corporation in California is making a center that will help space mission planners avoid impacts with space junk.

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Our online store includes fun classroom activities for you and your students. Issues of NESTA's quarterly journal, The Earth Scientist are also full of classroom activities on different topics in Earth and space science!

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA