Humankind has become increasingly reliant on satellites and space technology to conduct everyday life, be it GPS for navigation on the road or satellite internet for communication. But a lingering threat to our entitled way of life is the exponential increase in space junk that can very well damage the very spacecraft we rely on to provide these services to civilization.
Space junk consists not only of spent satellites and booster rockets, but also of pieces of shattered spacecraft that linger above our atmosphere after colliding with something else. At the break-neck speeds that satellites move at, one tiny collision between two ordinary satellites can result in tens of thousands of debris shards that can harm spacecraft in their path.
The United States has enjoyed space dominance for several decades, but other nations are now playing the game of catch up. Perhaps unsurprisingly, space newbies aren’t always successful in launching their missions, resulting in out-of-control satellites that can’t be stopped. Moreover, an increased space presence also means that space will only get more cluttered and that humankind could eventually wall itself in from space travel.
The latter statement is particularly scary, as humankind aims to deploy humans to deep space in the near future. Assuming we became blockaded by space debris on our home planet, we’d be unable to send humans to other words for exploration or even so much as send resupply missions to those already residing in space.
The United States Air Force is constantly monitoring the skies above for potential collision threats, and perhaps ironically, its tracking platform even notified adversaries of potential collisions, as even a single collision could start an uncontrollable chain reaction that impacts us all.