The space around our blue planet is teeming with more than 21,000 pieces of debris larger than a tennis ball.
Orbiting the Earth are satellites crucial to many aspects of life as we know it in the 21st century. But along with equipment allowing us to navigate airplanes and ships, to communicate with loved ones thousands of miles away, or to gather data which will help us predict the nature and direction of the next great storm, the space around our blue planet is teeming with junk.
According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or NASA, more than 21,000 pieces of debris larger than a tennis ball orbit the Earth, while millions of pieces of space junk too small to track circle the Earth.
“The globe-spanning and interconnected nature of space capabilities and the world’s growing dependence on them mean that irresponsible acts in space can have damaging consequences for all,” said State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf. “As a result, all nations must work together to adopt approaches for responsible activity in space to preserve this right for the benefit of future generations.”
That is why the 15-member United Nations Group of Governmental Experts on Transparency and Confidence-Building Measures in Outer Space Activities have examined numerous proposals and changes in political and technological environment since 1993.
In mid-July, during its final meeting, the Group recommended that UN Member States and international organizations consider and implement, on a voluntary basis, a range of measures to enhance the transparency of outer space activities, further international cooperation, consultations, and outreach, and promote international coordination to enhance safety and predictability in the uses of outer space.
The United States agrees “that the exploration and use of outer space shall be carried on in accordance with international law, including the Charter of the United Nations, in the interest of maintaining international peace and security and promoting international cooperation and understanding,” said Deputy Spokesperson Harf. The Group also endorsed efforts to pursue political commitments – including a multilateral code of conduct – to encourage responsible actions in, and the peaceful use of, outer space."
“The United States is pleased to join consensus to affirm the role of voluntary, non-legally binding transparency and confidence-building measures to strengthen stability in space. This consensus sends a strong signal: States must remain committed to enhance the welfare of humankind by cooperating with others to maintain the long-term sustainability, safety, security, and stability of the space environment.”