According to NASA, more than 500,000 pieces of orbital debris as big as a marble or larger are tracked as they orbit the Earth. More than 20,000 of these are larger than a softball.
Space debris, junk, trash is the collection of defunct man-made objects in space like old satellites, spent rocket stages, and fragments from disintegration, erosion, and collisions. They all travel at speeds up to 17,500 mph, fast enough for a relatively small piece of orbital debris to damage a satellite or a spacecraft, which is a dramatic potential danger to all space vehicles, especially to those that are manned spacecrafts like the International Space Station.
The greatest risk to space missions comes from non-trackable debris, said Nicholas Johnson, NASA chief scientist for orbital debris. Claiming that space shuttle windows have been replaced because of damage caused by material that was analyzed and shown to be paint flecks. It's a wonder, with so much orbital debris, there have been only a few disastrous collisions.
In 1957 after the beginning of the space race (started by the launch of Sputnik),the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) started compiling a database of all known debris. The Department of Defense maintains a highly accurate satellite catalog on objects in Earth orbit that are larger than a softball. NASA and the DoD cooperate and share responsibilities for characterizing the satellite (including orbital debris) environment.
C1 Patterns. Students identify similarities and differences in order to sort and classify natural objects and designed products. They identify patterns related to time, including simple rates of change and cycles, and to use these patterns to make predictions.
C3 Scale Proportion and Quantity. Students recognize natural objects and observable phenomena exist from the very small to the immensely large. They use standard units to measure and describe physical quantities such as weight, time, temperature, and volume.
C4 Systems and System Models. Students understand that a system is a group of related parts that make up a whole and can carry out functions its individual parts cannot. They can also describe a system in terms of its components and their interactions.
C7 Stability and Change. Students measure change in terms of differences over time, and observe that change may occur at different rates. Students learn some systems appear stable, but over long periods of time they will eventually change.
C1 Patterns. Students recognize that macroscopic patterns are related to the nature of microscopic and atomic-level structure. They identify patterns in rates of change and other numerical relationships that provide information about natural and human designed systems. They use patterns to identify cause and effect relationships, and use graphs and charts to identify patterns in data.
C4 Systems and System Models. Students can understand that systems may interact with other systems; they may have sub-systems and be a part of larger complex systems. They can use models to represent systems and their interactions—such as inputs, processes and outputs—and energy, matter, and information flows within systems. They can also learn that models are limited in that they only represent certain aspects of the system under study.
C5 Energy and Matter. Students learn matter is conserved because atoms are conserved in physical and chemical processes. They also learn within a natural or designed system, the transfer of energy drives the motion and/or cycling of matter. Energy may take different forms (e.g. energy in fields, thermal energy, energy of motion). The transfer of energy can be tracked as energy flows through a designed or natural system.
C6 Structures and Functions. Students model complex and microscopic structures and systems and visualize how their function depends on the shapes, composition, and relationships among its parts. They analyze many complex natural and designed structures and systems to determine how they function. They design structures to serve particular functions by taking into account properties of different materials, and how materials can be shaped and used.
C4 Systems and System Models. Students can investigate or analyze a system by defining its boundaries and initial conditions, as well as its inputs and outputs. They can use models (e.g., physical, mathematical, computer models) to simulate the flow of energy, matter, and interactions within and between systems at different scales. They can also use models and simulations to predict the behavior of a system, and recognize that these predictions have limited precision and reliability due to the assumptions and approximations inherent in the models. They can also design systems to do specific tasks.
C5 Energy and Matter. Students learn that the total amount of energy and matter in closed systems is conserved. They can describe changes of energy and matter in a system in terms of energy and matter flows into, out of, and within that system. They also learn that energy cannot be created or destroyed. It only moves between one place and another place, between objects and/or fields, or between systems. Energy drives the cycling of matter within and between systems. In nuclear processes, atoms are not conserved, but the total number of protons plus neutrons is conserved.
C6 Structures and Functions. Students investigate systems by examining the properties of different materials, the structures of different components, and their interconnections to reveal the system’s function and/or solve a problem. They infer the functions and properties of natural and designed objects and systems from their overall structure, the way their components are shaped and used, and the molecular substructures of their various materials.
ESS1.B Earth and the Solar System. The Earth’s orbit and rotation, and the orbit of the moon around the Earth cause observable patterns.
PS2.A Forces and Motion. The effect of unbalanced forces on an object results in a change of motion. Patterns of motion can be used to predict future motion. Some forces act through contact, some forces act even when the objects are not in contact. The gravitational force of Earth acting on an object near Earth’s surface pulls that object toward the planet’s center
PS3.A Definitions of Energy. Moving objects contain energy. The faster the object moves, the more energy it has. Energy can be moved from place to place by moving objects, or through sound, light, or electrical currents. Energy can be converted from one form to another form.
PS4.C Information Technologies and Instrumentation. Patterns can encode, send, receive and decode information.
ESS1.B Earth and the Solar System. The solar system contains many varied objects held together by gravity. Solar system models explain and predict eclipses, tides, lunar phases, and seasons.
PS2.A Forces and Motion. The role of the mass of an object must be qualitatively accounted for in any change of motion due to the application of a force.
PS2.B Types of Interactions. Forces that act at a distance involve fields that can be mapped by their relative strength and effect on an object.
PS3.A Definitions of Energy. Kinetic energy can be distinguished from the various forms of potential energy. Energy changes to and from each type can be tracked through physical or chemical interactions. The relationship between the temperature and the total energy of a system depends on the types, states, and amounts of matter.
PS3.C Relationship between energy and forces. When two objects interact, each one exerts a force on the other, and these forces can transfer energy between them.
PS4.C Information Technologies and Instrumentation. Waves can be used to transmit digital information. Digitized information is comprised of a pattern of 1s and 0s.
ESS1.B Earth and the Solar System. Kepler’s laws describe common features of the motions of orbiting objects. Observations from astronomy and space probes provide evidence for explanations of solar system formation. Changes in Earth’s tilt and orbit cause climate changes such as Ice Ages
PS2.A Forces and Motion. Newton’s 2nd law (F=ma) and the conservation of momentum can be used to predict changes in the motion of macroscopic objects.
PS2.B Types of Interactions. Forces at a distance are explained by fields that can transfer energy and can be described in terms of the arrangement and properties of the interacting objects and the distance between them. These forces can be used to describe the relationship between electrical and magnetic fields.
PS2.C Stability & Instability in Physical Systems. Systems often change in predictable ways; understanding the forces that drive the transformations and cycles within a system, as well as the forces imposed on the system from the outside, helps predict its behavior under a variety of conditions. When a system has a great number of component pieces, one may not be able to predict much about its precise future. For such systems (e.g., with very many colliding molecules), one can often predict average but not detailed properties and behaviors (e.g., average temperature, motion, and rates of chemical change but not the trajectories or other changes of particular molecules). Systems may evolve in unpredictable ways when the outcome depends sensitively on the starting condition and the starting condition cannot be specified precisely enough to distinguish between different possible outcomes.
PS3.A Definitions of Energy. The total energy within a system is conserved. Energy transfer within and between systems can be described and predicted in terms of energy associated with the motion or configuration of particles (objects).
PS3.C Relationship between energy and forces. Fields contain energy that depends on the arrangement of the objects in the field.
PS4.A Wave Properties. The wavelength and frequency of a wave are related to one another by the speed of the wave, which depends on the type of wave and the medium through which it is passing. Waves can be used to transmit information and energy.
PS4.C Information Technologies and Instrumentation. Large amounts of information can be stored and shipped around as a result of being digitized.