‘Unpredicted’ space debris ‘will kill people this decade,’ expert warns

A warning has been issued claiming humans will be killed by flying space debris, an expert has said.

The chilling warning came as the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs estimated that more than 2,000 items of space rubbish are currently floating above Earth – most of it in the planet's lower orbit.

Moriba Jah, who is an astrodynamicist from the University of Texas in the United States, spoke about the dangers of the debris during an interview with ARS Technica.

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As well as warning of the dangers of the debris returning to Earth, he also claimed that several orbits have also been lost because of it.

In short, space debris cane be anything from satellites no longer in service to rockets and boosters left floating in space.

Eventually, due to the Earth's gravitational pull, some of it ends up flying back down uncontrollably.

Moriba Jah said: “I think we are going to lose the ability to use certain orbits because the carrying capacity is going to get saturated by objects and junk.

“If we're trying to minimize having to move out of the way or bumping into each other, and no matter what we do we can't avoid that, that means that for all intents and purposes, that orbit highway is no longer usable.

“I predict that that's going to happen, and I also predict that we will see a loss of human life by school-bus sized objects re-entering and surviving re-entry and hitting a populated area, or people riding on this wave of civil and commercial astronauts basically having their vehicle getting scwhacked by an unpredicted piece of junk.

“I predict that both those things are going to happen in the next decade.”

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Space junk does actually fall to Earth several times a year, but it usually burns up in before it lands – but bigger objects have been reported to have landed on the Earth's surface on several occasions.

One of the biggest recent issues of overcrowding in space has been the impact on Elon Musk's Starlink satellites.

Mr Jah explained: “When you talk to SpaceX, it's very clear that the destruction of this Russian satellite (Russia blew its own satellite up a few years ago) likely had the intent of harmfully interfering with the Starlink satellites.

“They've already had to manoeuvrer several thousand times out of the way of the debris.

“It's an impact to their operations – that was not random, that was not haphazard.”

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