A communications satellite belonging to US company Iridium collided with a defunct Russian military satellite on February 12, 2009. According to NASA the satellites crashed into each other in an unprecedented collision, creating clouds of space debris which pose a slight risk to the International Space Station. The chief of Russia’s Mission Control says clouds of debris from the collision will circle Earth and threaten numerous satellites and the Federal Aviation Administration has received numerous reports of falling debris across Texas.
The image above is a computer-generated artist’s impression of the space debris currently orbiting the earth and you can view another impressive image at the MSNBC PhotoBlog. In researching this topic I also came across some interesting facts at the CBC website that helps put this recent event in perspective:
600 – Pieces of debris estimated to have been released into space in the collision between the U.S. communications group Iridium Satellite LLC and a Russian Cosmos-2251 military satellite.
900 – Number of pieces of debris created when China destroyed its Fengyun 1-C satellite in January 2007.
100 years – Approximate amount of time debris in orbits that are more than 621 miles above the Earth’s surface will continue to travel around the Earth. Debris travelling in orbits below 372 miles falls to Earth after several years. At altitudes below 248 miles, the debris is likely to fall to Earth before it has even been detected or identified.
One in one trillion – Odds that a person will be struck and injured by a piece of space debris, according to the Center for Orbital and Reentry Debris Studies.
Here is one last fact to ponder: the earth is estimated to be 4.5 billion years old and it has been a mere 51 years since the launch of Sputnik.
You’ll have to excuse me now; my cell phone is ringing…..
Take our 4 question Space Survey – It will take less than one minute!