Heavenly clutter

­The launch of Sputnik 1 by the Soviet Union in 1957 marked the beginning of the utilization of space for science and commercial activity. During the Cold War, space was a prime area of competition between the USSR and the US, reaching its climax with the race to the moon in the 1960s. In 1964 the first TV satellite was launched into a geostationary orbit in order to transmit the Olympic games from Tokyo. Since then, the number of objects in Earth orbit has increased steadily – by two hundred per year on average. Currently, the US Strategic Command monitors 12,771 satellites and other objects of about 10 centimeters in diameter orbiting the earth. Out of these 12,771 objects only 872 are active satellites, while most of the remaining 11,899 monitored pieces are dysfunctional and considered “space debris.” While our lives on earth depend more and more on GPS satellite support, the space they are imbedded in becomes increasingly cluttered. As an American general puts it: “Our space architecture is very fragile.”