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“Space trash” and “space junk” are terms for the man-made litter that is floating in space or otherwise stuck there.
Much of it orbits Earth. We know the problem is real when we hear about the Orbital Debris Program Office of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) at Johnson Space Center, Houston.
What all is whizzing around out there? By NASA’s accounting, the mess of it would fill a few junkyards if it were dumped in one place. Some 20 tons of stuff are stuck on the moon, like dead engines that can’t rust without free oxygen and water.
Other trash orbits Earth on paths set by its creation, traveling at speeds over 22,000 miles per hour. This junk includes spent rocket boosters, pieces that fall off spacecraft, and fragments and specks created by space collisions.
Certain trash has its own fame. There is the glove that floated away from Gemini 4 during the first U.S. spacewalk and the camera Michael Collins lost from Gemini 10. There are remains from space explosions.
Another stream of trash comes from man-made satellites. More than 4,000 satellites have been launched into Earth orbit. They came from over 50 countries and were launched from sites in 10 nations.
A few hundred of the thousands are currently useful. The rest are space trash.
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