MAY 20, 2018 5:02 AM PDT

What happens when an astronaut drops something in space?


This is the story of a spatula that became a satellite. A spatula that got untethered from the astronaut that it was on only to go whizzing off into orbit at 17,500 miles per hour.

According to the European Space Agency, space debris is defined as "all non-functional, human-made objects, including fragments and elements thereof, in Earth orbit or re-entering into Earth's atmosphere. Human-made space debris dominates over the natural meteoroid environment, except around millimeter sizes." NASA astronaut Pier Sellers says that when you're out in space, space debris is the most feared enemy because even the smallest objects flung at such fast speeds can cause great damage. It's impossible to monitor smaller pieces of space debris and therefore preparing for such collisions is basically a shot in the deep, dark universe. There are approximately 1 trillion objects bigger than 0.1 mm in orbiting the Earth right now.

Every orbital launch results in debris from rocket parts. Sometimes these parts will stay in orbit, sometimes they'll burn up, sometimes they fall into the ocean. But other times, they crash into something they shouldn't. Find out what happened to the spatula. Watch the video now.
About the Author
BA Environmental Studies
Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
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