Since humanity made its first trip out of Earth's atmosphere, we've been polluting the emptiness surrounding our planet. Orbital debris is a significant concern for all space-faring countries and could seriously impact the future of spaceflight. Because objects in Low-Earth Orbit are moving at a brisk 7km/s (15,000mph) the risk for catastrophic collision, especially with manned spacecraft, is a nontrivial issue.
This simulation illustrates some of the debris orbiting the planet (not to scale) that our spacecraft must navigate through when exiting the atmosphere. NASA and other government agencies track approximately 19,000 pieces of debris larger than 5cm with an estimate 300,000 pieces larger than 1cm existing below 2,000km. Numerous debris-removal missions are currently being planned to clean up low Earth orbits.
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