Opinion: Why I’m a space environmentalist – and why you should be, too

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How to track space junk
01:44 - Source: CNN

Editor’s Note: Astrodynamicist Moriba Jah is an associate professor of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics at the University of Texas at Austin, and co-founder and chief scientist of Privateer, a space data intelligence company. The views expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion on CNN.

CNN  — 

There are currently over 27,000 pieces of human-made objects being tracked as they orbit Earth, but that only includes objects larger than a softball. If you consider all debris, that number is estimated to be closer to 100 million. This can be anything from dead satellites still in orbit to pieces of metal, screws or flecks of paint.

But what does that mean for us?

Thanks to space exploration, and our history of putting objects into space, we know more about ourselves, our planet and our universe. Our lives today depend on what’s in space: communications systems, weather forecasting, financial transactions and even the location and navigation functions on your cell phone rely on satellites. Many of the innovations we have come to love, like memory foam mattresses and LASIK eye surgery, came about because of our celestial exploration.