We think of space as a big empty expanse, but closer to Earth, the space just beyond the outer reaches of our atmosphere are teeming with satellites and broken bits of space debris.Based on an idea called the Kessler syndrome, these defunct satellites and space debris could potentially cut us off from accessing space, since even the tiniest piece of debris could take out a rocket, space shuttle or space station.
These tiny pieces of debris are created when two larger satellites collide. There are probably tens of millions of pieces of space debris.
Back then, NASA employee Donald Kessler, together with colleague Burton Cour-Palais, proposed that as the number of satellites rose, so would the risk of accidental collisions. The resulting debris would take out further satellites, sparking a chain reaction that would swiftly encircle the planet with a vast cloud of debris. Orbits would then become unusable because anything placed up there would be sandblasted into smithereens, exacerbating the problem. Eventually our access to space would be lost.
This is actually becoming a problem for the International Space Station, which is continually monitoring space debris around it and has needed to make several adjustments in recent months to avoid collisions.
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