SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s plans to bring humans to space and perhaps start a colony on the moon or planet Mars could be doomed to fail because of the real danger posed by space junk.

According to a report, space junk could clog up the Earth’s low orbit and “trap” future space ships from ascending and leaving our planet’s atmosphere. Based on recent data, the space on Earth’s upper atmosphere is now littered with 170 million pieces of floating junk. What’s alarming is that out of these, only 22,000 are actually being tracked.

Per the report, around 7,000 tons of space junk has been accumulated and currently going around the Earth’s atmosphere. This debris is a combination of old satellites, metals from rockets and even rock build-ups that are close to the proximity of Earth.

Previously, experts have already warned that it would be difficult for rockets to pass through the Earth’s orbit if the space junk around it increases. Colliding with any of this debris is very real and poses a possible danger. The theory is called ‘Klesser syndrome.’

Because of these, aggressive space plans such as SpaceX Mars and the moon colony could eventually fail if nothing will be done. Musk initially planned to take people out of Earth to start a livable community either on the moon or the Red Planet.

Even NASA’s future moon missions could be in danger of failing with the danger of space junk won’t be addressed.

Aside from space missions, even Earth-bound technologies such as mobile phones, GPS, weather instruments and television could be affected by this space junk. The instruments rely heavily on satellites and space junk could hinder the signals from getting through.

Now, an expert has actually issued a warning saying that there’s so much space junk in low Earth orbit that in time, humanity could be trapped to do anything about it. According to Ralph Dinsley, founder and executive director of Northern Space and Security LTD, we are already approaching a time when it would be too late to leave Earth.

“At the far end of the spectrum, worst-case scenario, it will wipe it out. We could have a major space junk event that will mean that we can’t launch beyond low-Earth orbit and we trap ourselves on Earth. The simplest event is that it will slow down how we do space exploration. It has been ten years since the last satellite on satellite collision. The likelihood of it happening is very low but there is still that potential. But the catastrophic results could be huge,” Dinsley said.

At any rate, it’s not like nothing is actually being done to clear our space junk and that companies have already been tapped to do the cleanup. One of these missions is the UK Space Agency's RemoveDEBRIS mission which is actually one of the pioneers attempts to address the build-up of dangerous space junk.

SpaceX ISS
(Jan. 9, 2019) The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft is pictured attached to the International Space Station's Harmony module as the orbital complex flew 258 miles above the Indian Ocean off the eastern coast of South Africa. NASA/ JSC