The contrail from the re-entry of a piece of space debris blows in the wind above York, Pa., Sept. 6, 2001. (Jason Plotkin/Associated Press)

Thousands of pieces of junk orbit the Earth. And a new report is calling on NASA to clean it all up. Don Kesller, a former NASA scientist, said in a report for the National Research Council, that the space debris has reached a “tipping point.”


On the left is the region of space within 2,000 kilometers of the Earth's surface to show the most concentrated area for orbital debris. On the right, a more distant vantage of the clutter above us. (NASA Orbital Debris Program Office/Johnson Space Center)

There are more than 22,000 pieces big enough for NASA to track, and possibly millions of smaller pieces. The report calls on NASA to figure out a plan to clean up the debris.

The news isn’t all bad, though, says writer Konstantin Kakaes in Slate: “Doing so will be expensive and require a huge leap in space technology. But this investment of money and brainpower will not just solve our space-junk conundrum. It may help us in the next phase of space exploration,” he writes.