Junk in the Earth's orbit is posing threat not only to the planet but also to space missions. A report from the International Association for the Advancement of Space Safety (IAASS) is calling for stringent international laws to be brought in urgently to avert a tragedy, the Guardian reported. ''Failure to act now to regula te space to protect property and human life would be pure folly,'' says the association's director, Tommaso Sgobba.
In low Earth orbit, pieces of debris could strike manned spacecraft and lead to fatal depressurisation, space experts warn. Low-orbiting debris also poses a risk to Earth itself.
In 2006, pieces of a Russian spy satellite burnt up in the atmosphere, passing perilously close to a Latin American Airbus carrying 270 passengers over the Pacific.
The problem, according to the Association for the Advancement of Space Safety report, is that satellites in geostationary orbit are supposed to be moved farther into space after they become defunct - but often that obligation is not met.
According to NASA, there are now 9,000 pieces of orbiting junk, weighing a total of more than 5,500 tonnes: old rocket launchers, tools and instruments dropped by astronauts, and pieces of exploded spacecraft. Examples include a glove lost by astronaut Ed White during a 1965 space walk, a camera that Michael Collins let slip in space in 1966 and a pair of pliers that an International Space Station astronaut recently let slip through their fingers.