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