Space Junk (Kessler Syndrome)

Space Junk (Kessler Syndrome):
  • More than 5 decades of human space exploration since the first Soviet-launched Sputnik satellite in 1957 has produced a hazardous belt of orbiting debris in the space.
  • There are estimated to be more than 100 million pieces circling our planet in the lower orbit, posing a growing threat to future space exploration.
  • Much of the debris is in low Earth orbit, within 2,000 km of Earth’s surface, though some debris can be found in geostationary orbit 35,786 km above the Equator.
  • These pieces of debris travel at high speeds. A relatively small piece of orbital debris can inflict a great deal of damage on satellites or spacecraft orbiting in the space.
  • Kessler Syndrome:
    • The free floating space debris is a potential hazard for operational satellites and colliding with them can leave the satellites dysfunctional.
    • This is referred to as Kessler Syndrome, named after NASA scientist Donald Kessler in 1978.
    • It says if there is too much space junk in orbit, it could result in a chain reaction where more and more objects will collide and create new space junk in the process, to the point where Earth’s orbit becomes unusable – a Domino Effect.
    • With countries launching more and more satellites, each one of them being a strategic or commercial asset, avoiding collisions could become a challenge in the future.
  • Why in news?
    • A leftover piece of Chang-e (a lunar mission of China) flying through space reportedly hit the surface of the moon creating a new crater that may be around 65 feet wide.

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