Crowded outer space full of flying junk

Two satellites have been destroyed in a 17,000 mph crash in outer space. A defunct Russian military satellite, falling out of orbit, hit an American Iridium communications satellite 485 miles above the Russian Arctic, The Times reports.

Scientists say that fall-out from the collision has added more than 600 pieces of space debris which are spiralling round earth in two ever expanding clouds.

Before the launch of Sputnik in 1957 space was a pristine wilderness, today it is filled with over 300,000 objects spiralling around planet earth.

The junk includes retired satellites, sections of rockets and booster tanks that launched them and the spanners, tool bags and gloves lost by space-walking astronauts.

NASA scientists have theory that one collision in outer space could trigger thousands of others by pushing space debris into critical density. Even the tiniest piece of debris is very dangerous. A fleck of paint hitting a space suit at 17,000mph would pierce it like a bullet.

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