Problematic satellites in Earths orbit could leave humans stranded on planet
Space is famously vast, but the strip of it surrounding Earth is becoming increasingly congested with some scientists fearing it could leave us stranded on the planet indefinitely.
But what could possibly congest an area as big as space and why would it matter? The answer of course is satellites, or to put it bluntly, thousands of satellites.
According to Live Science, the number of satellites currently clogging up Earth's Lower Orbit is now around 7500 and more are being launched every year.
Of course, the trusty eggheads at space agencies like NASA are able to chart their rocket trajectories around them, but that might not always be the case.
As the number of satellites increases in Earth's lower orbit, so too does the possibility of accidental collisions between them causing space debris which in turn affects the orbit of satellites.
There are currently thought to be over 128 million pieces of space debris orbiting the earth, and soberingly 34,000 of these are larger than 10cm.
Speaking to ScienceLive, astronomer Aaron Boley warned that the proliferation of satellites and subsequent debris could spell big trouble for future rocket launches.
He said: "The safe operation of that many satellites is going to be a major challenge.
"An accident in one particular orbit that generates significant space debris has the potential to affect a wide range of orbits."
The overarching fear most astronomers have on this issue is that it could trigger something known as the Kessler syndrome.
To put this simply, it hypothesises that eventually, the density of objects in Earth's lower orbits could be such that we will be unable to launch more satellites and unable to leave the planet.
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Which would spell bad news for all of us if the words of Tesla mogul Elon Musk are anything to go by.
Earlier this week, the billionaire made the explosive claim that there is a "100% chance of all species going extinct" unless humans settle other planets.
Musk has always had an ambition of making human life "multi-planetary" and has made this a key ambition of SpaceX.
The Tesla businessman made the claim on Twitter, writing: "There is a 100% chance of *all* species extinction due to expansion of the sun, unless humanity makes life multi-planetary."
So when can we expect to see evidence of the Kessler syndrome in action?
Thankfully according to Boley, there'll be warning signs.
He continued: "The Kessler effect will not have a clear moment that it turns on, rather, it is a gradual transition due to an imbalance of debris generation and debris removal rates."
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