17:01 GMT15 August 2020
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    Since the launch of the first artificial satellite into space, humanity has left much debris around the Earth. The huge mass of space junk that orbits the planet at speeds of up to 17,400 mph poses a serious threat to future exploration, a British scientist said November 18 at the launch of a project aimed at increasing awareness of the issue.

    "Tackling the problem of space debris is one of humankind's greatest environmental challenges, but is also perhaps the one that is the least known," said Hugh Lewis, head of astronautics research at the University of Southampton.

    He said at the Royal Astronomical Society in London that cleaning the orbital space "may take years to achieve."

    In total, there are more than 100 million pieces of junk, with 27,000 items of debris being tracked as they orbit our planet. Those pieces are dangerous for satellites as they can damage and even destroy them. As a result, they "may affect the dreams and ambitions of future generations to work and live in space," Lewis said.

    To raise awareness of the space junk issue, an online interactive project titled Adrift that combines film, sound and social media has been launched to familiarize people with the pollution high above. Two award-winning artists, Cath Le Couteur and Nick Ryan, along with creative technologist Daniel Jones, created three interactive tweet bots.

    Users can "adopt" a piece of space junk on Twitter. The piece will communicate with them live from space, according to the project website. Users can also audibly follow the path of space debris.

    Lewis spoke of the issue in the wake of an accident that involved a large metal cylinder falling from the sky and slamming into a mining area in Myanmar last week.

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    Tags:
    environmental issues, project, pollution, space junk, Royal Astronomical Society, London
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