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U.S., Russian Satellites Collide, Go Boom

It’s getting crowded in space. A U.S. telecommunications satellite and a defunct Russian satellite smacked into each other in orbit over Siberia on Tuesday. According to NASA, no one was to blame for the unprecedented collision: “We don’t have an air traffic controller in space.”

What we do have in space, now, is roughly 600 pieces of former satellite that could pose a risk to other orbiting objects, including the International Space Station.

Thought experiment: Imagine if this had happened at the height of the Cold War.

CNET News via Engadget:

“It’s going to take a while” to get an accurate count of the debris fragments, [NASA’s chief scientist] said. “It’s very, very difficult to discriminate all those objects when they’re really close together. And so, over the next couple of days, we’ll have a much better understanding.”

Asked which satellite was at fault, Johnson said “they ran into each other. Nothing has the right of way up there. We don’t have an air traffic controller in space. There is no universal way of knowing what’s coming in your direction.”

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