Kessler Syndrome

The Kessler syndrome (proposed by the NASA scientist Donald J. Kessler in 1978) is a scenario in which the density of objects in low Earth orbit is high enough that collisions between objects could cause a cascade—each collision generating space debris which increases the likelihood of further collisions.

One implication is that the distribution of debris in orbit could render space exploration, and even the use of satellites, infeasible for many generations. Every satellite, space probe, and manned mission has the potential to create space debris. A cascading Kessler syndrome becomes more likely as satellites in orbit increase in number and old satellites become inoperative.

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