Space junk continues to be a significant problem. The more we launch, the more garbage we leave in outer space to orbit our planet. Experts fear that unless we find a way to clean up our space junk, we could one day bar ourselves from future space launches, as the junk density would become too overwhelming to navigate a rocket through safely.
Space junk isn't just comprised of spent rocket boosters and dead satellites, but it also consists of the small bits and fragments that result when two dead satellites collide with one another and break apart. This issue can create a domino effect that goes on forever.
Given just how dire the space junk problem is, the most brilliant minds in the space science community are working diligently to find a solution. Many attempts to clean space junk to date have failed, but the British RemoveDebris spacecraft looks promising.
The spacecraft will utilize harpoons and space junk-wrangling nets to capture bits of space junk and drag them all back to the Earth. Once it enters the Earth's atmosphere, the spacecraft and everything it's hauling back should theoretically burn up from the heat and friction upon reentry.
RemoveDebris is one of the first practical attempts to remove space junk from Earth's orbit, and it could launch as early as next year. It's imperative that we test, develop, and perfect these clean-up technologies to keep space travel viable for decades to come.