US and Russian satellites smash into each other

It has taken surprisingly long but two satellites, one US and the other a Russian, have smashed into each other high above the Earth. With approximately 18,000 pieces currently being tracked in space it's impressive that it took until now for a collision to actually occur.

"They collided at an altitude of 790 kilometers (491 miles) over northern Siberia Tuesday about noon Washington time," said Nicholas Johnson, NASA's chief scientist for orbital debris at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. "The U.S. space surveillance network detected a large number of debris from both objects."

Currently there are about 600 pieces of debris that are being tracked that are a direct result of the collision; it is being assessed if any of the pieces will pose a threat to the ISS (International Space Station).

The two satellites, the US being owned by Iridium which assisted in satellite phone connectivity and the Russians, a decommissioned (read: dead) "communications relay station launched in June 1993".

When asked about who was at fault for the collision NASA responded "they ran into each other. Nothing has the right of way up there. We don't have an air traffic controller in space. There is no universal way of knowing what's coming in your direction".

It is expected that all of the debris will eventually burn up in the Earth's atmosphere. Until that happens, it's only 600 more objects that NASA now has to track when prepping for shuttle launches.

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