NASA meticulously tracks pieces of space junk that are in orbit around the Earth. So far, it's identified more than 20,000 pieces that are larger than a softball, and more than 500,000 pieces larger than a marble. If it can predict a collision with a larger piece of debris, NASA instructs the spacecraft to perform avoidance maneuvers. In addition to the visible debris, however, there are millions of smaller pieces that are too hard to track. These tiny bits of space junk pose the most risk to spacecraft and astronauts. Keep scrolling for more on this deadly cosmic litter.
How Can We Clean Up That Space Junk?
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Key Facts In This Video
Some scientists think that if space junk continues to accumulate unchecked, it could form a shield of debris around Earth. 01:42
Plans have been proposed for a junk-removing spacecraft, which would dock with debris before being removed from orbit. 03:07
A space-based laser could target and fire on pieces of space debris to eliminate them. 03:30