The U.S. Strategic Command is aware of more than 21,000 man-made objects in orbit larger than 10 centimeters, but there are hundreds of thousands of even smaller pieces circling the Earth that can’t be tracked. Many of them are moving at extremely high speeds, some as fast as 22,000 mph. “A 10-centimeter sphere of aluminum would be like 7 kilograms of TNT,” one NASA scientist explained.
This map comes from NASA’s Orbital Debris Program Office. It shows all the…stuff humans have thrown into orbit since Sputnik, including bits of satellites that have cracked apart, or old upper-launch vehicle stages.
This is a huge problem. But there’s a solution that’s easier than you think. And no, it’s not lasers.