Space Junk
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Space Junk






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Space Junk Space Junk Document Transcript

  • Space Junk by John O’Brien About ten years ago, when I was going out for a surf, I stepped on a broken bottle. I hopped out of the water at once, and hurried off to hospital. My foot was 5 soon cleaned and stitched up, but I wasn’t very happy. I couldn’t go surfing again for ages. And for days, I could only limp around, very, very slowly. 1Text © John O’Brien. Illustrations © NZ Ministry of Education.
  • People carelessly drop junk almost 10 anywhere. They turn our world into an ugly place. And they turn it into a dangerous place, too, as I found out that day. Strangely, we don’t only leave junk 15 on our world. We leave it high above our world, too. We leave it in space. And this junk – space junk – can be very dangerous. 2Text © John O’Brien. Illustrations © NZ Ministry of Education.
  • When a spacecraft is launched off 20 our planet, it ends up orbiting the earth. It rushes around and around our world at thousands of kilometres an hour. Anything lost by the spacecraft orbits the earth in the same way. An old part of 25 a rocket. A tool dropped by an astronaut. A tiny fleck of paint. All will race along at the same speed as the spacecraft. 3Text © John O’Brien. Illustrations © NZ Ministry of Education.
  • When the spacecraft returns to earth, any junk it has lost will remain in space. 30 The junk will continue to orbit our world at thousands of kilometres an hour, because there is no air in space to slow it down. And anything that gets in its way will be in real trouble. 35 It’s easy to see that an old part of a rocket moving at such speeds would smash a spacecraft to pieces. But even very small pieces of space junk, because they are travelling much faster than a 40 bullet, could do a lot of damage. 4Text © John O’Brien. Illustrations © NZ Ministry of Education.
  • In fact, one of the space shuttles was actually hit by a tiny fleck of paint that was rushing around the earth. The fleck of paint crashed into the shuttle’s 45 windscreen. Luckily for the people inside, the windscreen was very, very thick, and the fleck of paint didn’t manage to get right through. If it had, there could have been a disaster. Air would have rushed 50 out of the shuttle. 5Text © John O’Brien. Illustrations © NZ Ministry of Education.
  • Today there are hundreds of pieces of space junk orbiting our earth. Scientists keep track of the bigger ones, so spacecraft can avoid them. But no one is sure where 55 the little ones are. Everyone just hopes to keep out of their way. Space launches these days are planned to leave as little junk in space as possible. Which is just as well. For in space, every 60 piece of junk is dangerous. Not just sharp pieces, like that broken bottle I trod on all those years ago. Illustrations by Bob Kerr 6Text © John O’Brien. Illustrations © NZ Ministry of Education.