Space is full of 200 tons of garbage. Now what?

Space is filled with deadly rocket debris and tons of human waste.

  (photo credit: REUTERS)
(photo credit: REUTERS)

For years, humans have been launching rockets, satellites, and various objects into space in the name of scientific discovery. However, when these missions fail, and rockets explode, the debris remains floating in space indefinitely. British astronomer Chris Impey warns that this poses a significant problem for our planet.

Impey reveals that the moon alone is littered with remnants of spacecraft, rocket boosters, and around 50 failed landings, as well as bags of human waste and miscellaneous objects like feathers, golf balls, and boots. In total, this amounts to approximately 200 tons of garbage.

Clutter in Earth's orbit: Equally concerning

The clutter in Earth's orbit is equally concerning, with inactive spacecraft, discarded items from astronauts, and countless small fragments, including paint spots, floating at alarming speeds of up to 15,000 km/h. 

There are approximately 23,000 objects larger than 10 centimeters in diameter and a staggering 100 million pieces larger than one millimeter of debris. The risks posed by this garbage, such as a minuscule piece of human waste colliding with a satellite, are genuine. Yet, there is no authority taking responsibility for the cleanup.

Impey expresses his outrage, citing the lack of regulation as an example of the "tragedy of the commons," where multiple parties have access to a shared resource but fail to prevent its overexploitation. He argues that if space debris continues to accumulate, the current approach to space exploration will bring us even greater dangers.

Is there a solution?

With no clear solution, the issue of space trash and human waste remains a looming threat. Global cooperation and regulatory measures must be implemented to address and mitigate this growing problem before it spirals out of control. Failure to act could have dire consequences for space exploration and our planet's future.