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Space debris problem is urgent, say scientists


This National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) handout image shows a graphical representation of space debris in low Earth orbit.



Scientists warned Thursday that space debris is getting out of hand and a spring cleaning may be necessary.

Space junk threatens communications satellites.

The amount has tripled since 1978 and is expected to get much worse.

"There is a wide and strong expert consensus on the pressing need to act now to begin debris removal activities," said Heiner Klinkrad, head of the European Space Agency's Space Debris Office.

"Our understanding of the growing space debris problem can be compared with our understanding of the need to address Earth's changing climate some 20 years ago."

His comments marked the end of a four-day conference in Darmstadt, Germany where countries were urged to follow protocols that see junk eventually fall to Earth.

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There are more than 30,000 pieces of junk floating around Earth that are larger than four inches across.

There are hundreds of thousands of even smaller pieces emanating from old rockets, broken satellites and other spaceship components that have fallen into disuse in the last half-century.

Junk travels at about 15,000 miles per hour so satellites better watch out!

Needless to say, the more junk there is, the more chances satellites will get hit.

Nets, harpoons, lasers and suicide robots have all been suggested to clean up the mess.