Trash pileup.Over the years, space missions have left behind 10,000 objects 10 centimeters (4 inches) wide or larger--spent rockets, a camera, even a toothbrush--orbiting our planet. The only way to take out this trash is to wait for the debris to slow in their orbits and fall to Earth. But a thinning atmosphere could mean that space trash stays in orbit longer.
Stanley Solomon and other scientists from the National Center for Atmospheric Research The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) is a non-governmental U.S.-based institute whose stated mission is "exploring and understanding our atmosphere and its interactions with the Sun, the oceans, the biosphere, and human society. in Colorado recently predicted that the outermost out·er·most
Most distant from the center or inside; outmost.
furthest from the centre or middle
Adj. 1. layer of Earth's atmosphere “Air” redirects here. For other uses, see Air (disambiguation).
Earth's atmosphere is a layer of gases surrounding the planet Earth and retained by the Earth's gravity. It contains roughly (by molar content/volume) 78% nitrogen, 20.95% oxygen, 0.93% argon, 0. (the thermosphere ther·mo·sphere
The outermost shell of the atmosphere, between the mesosphere and outer space, where temperatures increase steadily with altitude.
ther ) will thin by nearly 3 percent in the next decade. The reason? As people burn fossil fuels for energy, carbon dioxide carbon dioxide, chemical compound, CO2, a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas that is about one and one-half times as dense as air under ordinary conditions of temperature and pressure. (C[O.sub.2]) is released. High in the thermosphere, C[O.sub.2] radiates heat energy into space, causing the air to cool. That makes gas particles sink lower in the atmosphere.
With fewer gas particles around for space debris Space debris or orbital debris, also called space junk and space waste, are the objects in orbit around Earth created by humans, that no longer serve any useful purpose. to bump into, the slowing force of drag is reduced. Less drag could cause space debris to continue circling Earth at high speeds--staying aloft longer instead of falling back toward the planet.
The problem: A collision with a big piece of debris could disable a space shuttle, says Solomon. That could be a real drag for space exploration.
PERCENT OF TRASH LEFT ORBITING EARTH BY DIFFERENT COUNTRIES' SPACE PROGRAMS Which two countries combined have produces the same amount of space trash as Russia? China 4% France 4% Other 6% U.S.A. 41% Russia 43% India 2% Note: Table made from pie chart. SOURCE: NASA ORBITAL DEBRIS PROGRAM OFFICE