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Space Junk Passes 'Tipping Point'

Report urges NASA to ramp up efforts quickly
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 1, 2011 5:11 PM CDT
Space Junk Past 'Tipping Point'
This computer generated graphic provided by NASA shows images of debris in Earth's orbit that are currently being tracked.   (AP Photo/NASA)

(Newser) – Astronauts on the International Space Station had a close call with space debris in June, and things are only going to get worse from here on out, warns a new report. In fact, the amount of junk orbiting earth has now passed the "tipping point," says the National Research Council. It calls for NASA to get a better handle on the problem quickly and for the US to enlist the help of other nations to figure out solutions, reports the Washington Post.

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“We’re going to have a lot more [debris] collisions, and at an increasingly frequent rate,” says a former NASA scientist who helped draft the report. It's not just astronauts at risk: Multimillion-dollar satellites can be rendered useless when even a small piece of debris hits them. And in a vicious cycle, the more collisions that happen, the more debris is created. We'll hope discarded pizza boxes don't add to the problem. (Read more space junk stories.)

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