Falling Space Junk Is A Growing Problem That Is Only Going To Get Worse

In the first quarter of this year, a piece of the International Space Station and a chunk of a SpaceX Dragon ship fell to Earth, causing concern about the safety of people on Earth from falling space debris. This issue is becoming more significant as government agencies like NASA and private companies such as SpaceX and Blue Origin launch more satellites and send more people into space.

According to a report by Ars Technica, there is a growing concern about the increasing number of variables that make it difficult to predict how space debris will fall back to Earth. The space above our planet is filled with various objects, including remnants of the Apollo program, waste from the International Space Station, and defunct satellites.

To remove this debris, scientists spend years working out safe ways to bring satellites back to Earth, which often involves forcing them to burn up in our atmosphere or crashing them into the ocean. However, these methods are not always successful, as evidenced by the recent incidents where space debris landed on American soil.

The safety of innocent people on Earth is at risk as falling space debris becomes less predictable. The orientation of a spacecraft as it falls into the atmosphere, the materials used, and the way it falls through the atmosphere can all influence how the craft survives the trip.

NASA and SpaceX are currently analyzing the remains of the Dragon ship that crashed onto U.S. soil to better understand how components and materials behave when free-falling from space. The information gathered from this analysis will help improve debris modeling and explore additional solutions to minimize the risks posed by falling space debris.

While the annual risk of an individual getting injured by falling debris from space is currently “less than 1 in 100 billion,” this risk could rise as the number of objects in space continues to grow. There are now more than 120 million pieces of debris floating in space, and while many will never make land, the risks they pose will only continue to grow as that number rises.

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