This video shows why we need to deal with our huge space debris problem

We humans have been some of the worst tenants that planet Earth has ever seen, doing our best to heat up the planet to dangerous levels and see off many of our fellow species in the process. When we finally up sticks and move out to another planet, we probably shouldn’t expect the deposit back.

The idea that we’d look after another world any better is, of course, a dubious one – especially when you look at the state of space surrounding our planet. Space debris – leftover bits of rockets, satellites and other man-made objects that have left our atmosphere – has been an issue since 1957, but as more and more stuff is being sent up into space, it’s becoming a serious problem. There are around 20,000 pieces of space debris currently orbiting the Earth, but that only refers to objects larger than two inches. If you include everything smaller, we could be looking at closer to 170 million.

Suffice it to say, any rocket leaving Earth does not want to come into contact with space debris travelling at thousands of miles per hour. But just how busy has it gotten up there? This video from Dr Stuart Grey at University College London tracked the data to give us an idea of quite how we reached this point over the years. Remember, this only includes the big stuff.

Lots of space debris deals with itself over time. Indeed,

NASA says that over the past 50 years, an average of one piece of debris has fallen to Earth per day, the majority of which burns up before it reaches the surface. Although at that speed, and with 20,000 objects to deal with, we’d be looking at clearing orbit by Friday 6 February 2071. If you want to clean things up sooner, we could consider speeding up the process with lasers

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