I’ve been picking at a short story involving space trash (our upper atmosphere is cluttered with debris). It's a timely topic given that three astronauts were recently stranded for over a year after their capsule radiator was struck by a miniscule piece of space junk.
I’m not the only person fretting about the trash floating overhead. A company called Privateer is creating 3D images of the junk cluttering Earth’s atmosphere. Omega (of spacewatch fame) is a recent partner and issued a cool video showing these 3D images.
NASA has an orbital debris tracking program. They estimate there are half a million marble-sized objects and one-hundred-million flecks smaller than one millimeter.
The speck that incapacitated the Soyuz capsule radiator and stranded those three astronauts was 0.08 millimeters--about the diameter of a human hair. It was able to pierce the spaceship because of the incredibly fast speed at which this debris travels in orbit around the planet.
I don’t want to live in a garbage dump. I pick up trash while hiking to keep it out of the water supply and as a favor to the forest and fellow hikers. Once a week, I take our garbage barrel and recycling out to the curb. Every day I pick up scattered cat toys.
Here’s hoping the satellite and space exploration industries learn how to clean up after themselves, before it becomes a more lethal problem.