Besides working and necessary satellites, our planet is surrounded by a dense cloud of space debris. The problem with the junk we’ve left behind in space is that they can and they do cause accidents.
The space debris consists of artificial garbage, things made by humans, and left out there. Abandoned satellites, obsolete rocket stages, and disintegration fragments. When SpaceX will make space travel available, the travelers will have the chance to admire the paint flecks, pieces of solidified liquids, parts of rocket motors that survived explosions, and so on.
Besides polluting, the debris is dangerous for functional satellites and rockets, as they can crash. They can also fall back down on Earth as was the case with the 18 tons of empty core stage from the Long March-5B rocket, launched by China on May 5th from Wenchang Space Launch Center in south China’s Hainan province.
The rocket was supposed to take an unmanned prototype spacecraft into orbit and it ended instead in the Atlantic Ocean, after surrounding three-quarters of the planet. It passed over Los Angeles and Central Park in New York City, and specialists tacking it wasn’t sure if the giant piece of debris would fall on land, or in the ocean.
“The problem is that it is traveling very fast horizontally through the atmosphere and it’s hard to predict when it will finally come down. The Air Force’s final prediction was plus or minus half an hour, during which time it went 3/4 of the way around the world. It’s pretty hard to do any better,” said Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
The piece that fell it was the fourth biggest piece ever to fall on Earth, but the astronomer seemed quite relaxed, claiming that if it were to collide on land, it wouldn’t do too much damage. A house, or so. Just as a piece of a plane would do, if it were to fall from a flying plane. That’s reassuring.