Just how much space crap is circling the Earth? THIS much!

Contributed by
Dec 14, 2012, 4:31 PM EST

We send stuff up into Earth's atmosphere all the time. Satellites. Shuttles. Rockets. Humans. The odd helmeted chimp or lab rat. Everything that goes up must come down, right? Not necessarily. Some of it stays up there, longer than we ever intended. So ... just how much stuff sails above our heads every day? (Those suffering from maimouphobia, don't worry. We're sure the monkeys ain't there anymore.)

The UK's Telegraph recently published an illustration (above) created by Australia's Electro Optic Systems showing exactly how crowded our skies have become.

... [the illustration is a] view of the Earth from geostationary height depicting swarms of space debris—approximately 50,000 of the half-million or more objects bigger than 1cm—in Low Earth Orbit. ... Debris on the eastern side of the image are in the Earth's shadow and so not visible to the eye.

I'm no mathematician, but that certainly sounds like a lot of crap. And we're putting more material up there every day.

How we will we avoid running afoul of all this debris in the future? Australian company Electro Optic Systems was recently awarded a grant to "develop the world's first automated, high-precision, laser-based, space debris tracking system."

Lasers. Check.

Fired from the ground. Check.

Track debris. Check.

Automated. You might be losing us there.

Wait. We're building automated robots and arming them with lasers?

Anyone else think this sounds like a recipe for a science-fictional apocalypse?