Many of us are fascinating about a rocket sort through the sky, but never actually paying attention to the rocket debris, the leftover parts that ended up floating in the space and eventually became space junk.
The International Space Station dodged a fragment of a decades-old rocket debris early Friday morning, continuing a stretch of space debris threats to the orbiting laboratory.
Is Rocket Debris A Threat?
The first piece of rocket debris to hit Earth was a Chinese-built vehicle that re-entered Earth’s atmosphere. It fell in Oklahoma and Texas, injuring a woman. The Delta’s second stage re-entered the atmosphere early in the spring of 2000, but debris from the launch remained in the space. Several countries have parked their space debris in lower orbits, but the U.S. has not.
Will Space Junk Ever Go Away?
The worst-case scenario is that a piece of spacecraft will crash on Earth. Most of the debris will end up in uninhabited areas, but there is still a slight risk of being impacted by a chunk. This risk increases with the size of the debris, with 20% to 40% of the dry mass surviving the re-entry heat. Fortunately, the chances of a chunk falling to Earth are extremely low, although some scientists are still concerned.
Even though there are no direct risks to Earth, space debris poses a huge operational risk for the International Space Station. As of June 2016, one object crashed into the oceans every day. Luckily, this space junk is small enough to be dodged by the International Space Station. This is because most of the Earth’s surface is covered by water, making the chances of a collision are low. But it’s important to note that space junk is not without consequences.