More than 4,600 satellites wander over our heads. There are also 14,000 old rocket parts along with space debris or space junk.

About 95 percent of what’s orbiting us is space junk. This includes dead satellites, used rocket parts, out-of-control space stations, lost astronaut tools and more.

Experts say that this is very worrying. That’s because the junk will result in more number of space collisions, thus raising the risk for craft leaving Earth.

A really bad thing is that a space collision can create thousands of out-of-control pieces of space garbage which can move rapidly and put other spacecraft in serious danger.

This dangerous space garbage is moving roughly 10 times faster than a speeding bullet. It may take hundreds of years to crash back to earth.

A study by the European Space Agency revealed that Earth is being orbited by 170 million pieces of space junk. They move tens of thousands of miles per hour. According to the Business Insider report, the space junk consists of numerous “explosive bolts” and paint flecks.

“Countries have learned over the years that when they create debris, it presents a risk to their own systems just as it does for everybody else,” said Bill Ailor, who works for the nonprofit Aerospace Corporation.

Image Credit: Andy Kiersz/Business Insider

 

Although the chart shows that Russia has the most objects currently in space, the US owns the title of the dirtiest country in space for now, with the most space junk, shown in red.

China has only recently built up its space program. Yet the country is the third with 3,475 pieces of space junk. This is because in 2007 the nation destroyed one of its own satellites in the anti-satellite weapons test.

According to Ailor, the key to getting rid of space junk can be removing the old spacecraft from orbit. Various space agencies and corporations are coming up with the new technology to devise spacecraft de-orbiting.

“I’ve proposed something like a XPRIZE or a Grand Challenge, where you would identify three spacecraft and give a prize to an entity to remove those things,” Ailor said.

However, the main focus should be in preventing an alarming scenario known as Kessler Syndrome: with thousands of objects in space, one collision leads to several others, and those crashes lead to even more. Thus, messing-up space with so much debris that it becomes highly risky to leave Earth.

Thumbnail Credit: Petrovich9 | Getty Images