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SPACE JUNK by Karen Romano Young Kirkus Star


The Dangers of Polluting Earth's Orbit

by Karen Romano Young

Age Range: 12 - 18

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-4677-5600-6
Publisher: Twenty-First Century/Lerner

Humans have polluted the land, the seas, the top of Mount Everest—next stop: outer space.

Well, surprise, writes science journalist Young in this limpid and engrossing (two words not normally associated with trash) overview: we’ve been leaving our junk in space for over 60 years now, even on the moon. Fortunately, we never got to the point of launching our nuclear waste into low orbit as once proposed, but we have sent over 6,600 satellites into space—some as big as your head, some as big as a school bus—for a number of scientific and military reasons. Their current status: 1,000 are still at work; 3,000 entered orbital decay and hurtled Earthward, mostly to burn up in the upper atmosphere due to friction, though some found terra firma. That leaves 2,600 “zombies.” Young delivers a concise history of our flinging objects into outer space—along with some excellent illustrations and photographs—and explains the numerous terms such as zombies (“nonoperational satellites”) and space junk (“any human-made debris in space,” with about 20,000 pieces at the moment and an anticipated 60,000 in 15 years). Young also looks into work being done on NASA’s Visual Inspection Poseable Invertebrate Robot to retrofit the zombies. In addition, wonder of wonders, countries are working on projects simply to go pick up the trash.

Between her well-tempered writing style and her atypical subject, Young will have readers enthralled. (Nonfiction. 12-18)