It’s getting crowded up there, and awfully dangerous.

By up there, we mean space — and not the far-off areas that concern astronomers and science fiction, but the closer orbits where we humans keep putting our satellites
As satellites crash or break down, their flotsam and jetsam creates belts of debris, shooting into other satellites, rockets and space vehicles.

Some orbits could eventually become unusable. That would be a disaster — it could even start a war
What scholars call the “tragedy of the commons” is what results when we ruin something because we all profit from exploiting it. Classic examples include:

🐄Overgrazing public lands
🐟Overfishing the oceans
🏭Polluting the atmosphere
We’ve launched thousands of satellites into space and keep adding more. SpaceX has put up more than a thousand just in the past year.

These objects collide, malfunction and misbehave in other ways
As a result, about 28,000 fragments of junk are zipping around in space, and that count includes only what we can track.

Statistical models suggests that almost a million objects the size of hand grenades are orbiting the Earth
In space, many millions of bullet-sized things are floating around.

Owing to their astronomical speeds, even those small pellets can take out an astronaut, a satellite or even the International Space Station
Besides wreaking physical damage, this junk creates other problems:

🌌Electromagnetic radiation
🌌Radio frequency interference
🌌Scattering light
🌌Man-made dust makes telescopes ineffective
Even more ominously, space is nowadays also the fifth domain of warfare — alongside land, sea, air and cyberspace.

The U.S., Russia and China are arming themselves to take out each other’s satellites offensively
Cooperation is the only way forward.

The major powers must elevate space governance to the level of other threats to humanity, from climate change to nuclear proliferation
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