Summary of The History of Space Debris

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This short history of space debris offers a comprehensive overview of how man-made objects have accumulated in the Earth’s orbit. Space historian Loretta Hall highlights the dangers of space debris and touches on some of the efforts to prevent further contamination. getAbstract recommends her research to members of the space community and all those with an interest in man-made environmental issues.

About the Author

Loretta Hall is the space ambassador of the National Space Society and a member of the Historical Society of New Mexico’s Speakers Bureau.



Since the 1950s, the number of man-made objects orbiting Earth has increased from one to more than 100 million. After the 1957 launch of the first artificial satellite, the US Air Force created a “Space Object Catalog” to track the bigger objects orbiting Earth. It currently monitors in excess of 21,000 items larger than 10 cm (4 inches), however, only 6% of these account for active satellites, with the rest considered space debris.

Space debris originates from missions, accidents and intentional acts. During missions, objects detach – unintentionally or by design – from...

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