2022 was a big year for sending stuff into space, it was also a big year for stuff falling back to Earth.
There is more than 10,000 metric tonnes of human-made technology currently orbiting our planet. At some point, it will come back to Earth.
Sometimes, this can carry substantial risk, as was the case with the massive Long March 5B core stages that plummeted to the surface in 2022. On both occasions, these 20-tonne, three-storey tall rocket sections landed in the ocean.
But on one occasion, parts from these rockets were found scattered across parts of Africa.
And although the chances you’ll be hit by falling space junk were thought to be astronomically low – new research places the chances of someone, somewhere on the planet being killed by space junk at one in 10 this decade.
On this episode of The Science Briefing, Dr Sophie Calabretto and Matthew Agius dig into the odds you, or someone you know, will be hit by falling space junk and who is responsible for the damage caused.
Listen to more episodes of The Science Briefing
Matthew Agius is a science writer for Cosmos Magazine.
Dr Sophie Calabretto is a mathematician specialising in fluid mechanics. She is Honorary Senior Lecturer at Macquarie University and Honorary Associate Professor, at the ACE Research Group, University of Leicester.
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