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Thousands of pieces of "space junk" orbit our planet.
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Image courtesy of ESA.

Space Junk

On Earth, humans make trash. This trash can pollute our environment. Humans are doing the same thing in space. Right now there are millions of man-made objects floating in space called "space junk". Space junk includes things like satellites that don't work anymore or paint that has fallen off of the space shuttle.

Man-made junk orbits at a speed of 28,000 km/hr (17,500 miles/hour)! That's much faster then any human could drive! Even a grape-sized object could ruin a satellite if it hit at such a high speed!

Spacecraft, including the International Space Station (ISS), must be protected by shields that are not hurt when they get hit with space junk. Or the spacecraft must be able to move out of the way so it doesn't get hit by the space junk.

Last modified February 13, 2009 by Randy Russell.

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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