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Earth's garbage dump?


Since the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the first human-made satellite, into Earth's orbit in 1957, more than 50 countries have sent up thousands more--and what a mess they've left behind. The Air Force is currently tracking 20,000 pieces of Earth-orbiting space junk, including old rocket parts and dead satellites. Whizzing around at more than 17,000 miles per hour, this space junk could crash into working satellites and disrupt hurricane trackers, GPS systems, and military surveillance. Each crash creates more junk and increases the risk of more crashes, eventually making journeys into low-Earth orbit unsafe for astronauts and satellites. Scientists are proposing using nets, balloons, or ground-fired lasers to nudge wayward items into safer orbit. Switzerland even has an $11 million high-powered "vacuum cleaner" in the works: The small Swiss spacecraft would grab the space junk and bring it safely down to Earth.

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Title Annotation:Space; space junk
Publication:New York Times Upfront
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 2, 2012
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