In March, India shot down a satellite with a missile.
“India is now a major space power,” declared Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the time, according to local news.
But the event was an environmental catastrophe: debris created by the space explosion are still whipping around the Earth at thousands of miles per hour, putting spacecraft and other satellites in danger, according to The Verge — a four full months after the anti-missile test.
“Based on the current decay rates of some of these higher orbit objects, I think there will be at least some debris up for another year,” U.S. Air Force public affairs officer Cody Chiles told The Verge. “But probably not for two years.”
A Growing Problem
In June, astronomers from the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics were still tracking some 41 debris objects out of 400 originally identified. They add even more debris to an already very polluted Earth orbit.
NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said back in April that some 24 pieces at the same altitude at the International Space Station’s 250 miles posed an “unacceptable threat” to astronauts. “That kind of activity is not compatible with the future of human spaceflight.”
More on the anti-satellite test: Dangerous Debris From India’s Exploded Satellite Still Orbiting Earth