According to a new report by the National Research Council, space junk has reached its "tipping point" and is set to become a crucial problem for future space travelers in the next 10 to 20 years.
The effects of space debris were seen in June when the crew of International Space Station evacuated to the escape capsule when it appeared that a chunk of debris would hit the station. Luckily, the docking of the Atlantis shuttle pushed the space station just far enough away to avoid a collision while the objects sped by at nearly 17,000 mph.
Per the council's report, there is currently enough debris in orbit "to continually collide and create even more debris, raising the risk of spacecraft failures." The committee recommends that NASA investigate a plan to track the space objects and ways to mitigate their potential harm on humans in space and robotic equipments, such as the satellites we use back on Earth to power our communication networks. Further complicating matters, only about 30 percent of the debris is from the US, which may make dealing with foreign satellites and technology a sensitive issue.