Cambridge Science Centre


What is space junk?

Written on 17 Aug 2015 in Blog

It's not just Saturn that has rings, so does Earth! But this ring is man-made and far more deadly. More than 5,000 launches into space over the last 40 years have left their mark as Space Junk, objects such as old satellites, toolkits and even gloves accidently left behind by astronauts. It is estimated there could be as many as one hundred million objects orbiting Earth and this is starting to have an impact on future space exploration.

Space Junk can travel up to speeds of over 20,000km per hour, this means that no matter how small the objects may be, if they hit they do damage or even destroy satellites. The International Space Station (ISS) has to regularly move to avoid being hit by debris.

The recent ‘red conjunction’ - this is when a piece of junk comes close enough to pose a threat to the space station – involving a piece of debris from a Russian satellite was yet another demonstration of the growing threat from the rubbish. Companies are now looking to track the junk.

Hit films like ‘Gravity’ help us appreciate the anxiety that must be felt by many astronauts and cosmonauts on board the ISS whenever they receive ‘red conjunction’ calls, but it’s our problem too. From GPS to satellite TV our lives on Earth are very much affected by what goes on in space.

Our brand new COSMIC exhibition invites visitors to step out of this world into your very own space adventure. Come along to the centre and take a trip with us to discover the dangers astronauts face and the ways they are protected in our event ‘Safe in Space’.