Talks planned over ownership of ‘space junk’

Christopher Werth Jan 18, 2012

Jeremy Hobson: Well another Russian satellite re-enters Earth’s atmosphere today. It’s the latest example of the threats posed by “space junk” — all the debris left over from human activity in space that poses a risk to satellites, astronauts, and those of here on earth.

The Obama Administration announced yesterday that the U.S. is about to hold international talks on space junk, as Christopher Werth reports from London.

Christopher Werth: NASA says there are over 500,000 small bits of man-made “space junk” orbiting the planet, remnants of past space missions and old satellites. The pieces aren’t big — most are the size of a toy marble or a lemon. But, moving at over 17,000 miles an hour, even a marble can do serious damage.

Sa’id Mosteshar is the director of the London Institute of Space Policy and Law. He says countries here on Earth need to establish a code of conduct to limit space junk. He says the growing amount of space debris threatens weather forecasts, GPS technology, even banking transactions.

Sa’id Mosteshar: Economically we are becoming more and more dependent on space.

The issue of “space junk” rose to prominence when China destroyed one of its own satellites in a missile test in 2007. The resulting explosion created a debris cloud that’s drifted uncomfortably close to the International Space Station.

In London, I’m Christopher Werth for Marketplace.

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