Time to Clean Up Space Trash
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 22, 2009 5:16 AM CST
This image provided by the European Space Agency shows an artist's impression of catalogued objects in low-Earth orbit viewed over the Equator.   (AP Photo/ESA)
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(Newser) – Space trash is becoming a serious problem, and it's long past time for housekeeping, writes the Economist. Of the 18,000 objects orbiting earth that are bigger than 4 inches across, only 900 are functioning satellites. The rest is debris, from old rocket parts and dead satellites to tools and gloves dropped by astronauts, and it poses a mounting risk to satellites crucial to communications.

For starters, space-savvy nations should agree to share information with other governments and even small businesses about the location of satellites and major debris. New guidelines should be developed to cut down on trash, which can stay in orbit for centuries, and a moratorium on anti-satellite missile tests should be considered, the Economist argues. "For the sake of the whole planet, the space industry needs to clean up its act," the magazine writes.