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Space agencies have had some success managing the growing amount of satellite waste

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Photo: NASA

By Laura Millan Lombrana

We’ve launched 9,600 satellites since 1957. For the first few decades, no one thought about what would happen once they reached the end of their lives. By the time space agencies decided to do something, it had become a problem.

“A vast majority of objects in orbit are effectively stranded there,” says Stijn Lemmens, a space debris analyst at the European Space Agency. “And they have a lifetime of hundreds, thousands of years.”

Old satellites are dead weight, tumbling pieces of metal orbiting our planet, threatening to explode or crash against active equipment essential to communications, weather forecasting and navigation. …

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