On 17 March 1958, Vanguard became the first solar-powered satellite to be launched into space. It was also destined, once its mission ended, to become the first of a less salubrious class of orbiting object – space junk.
From nothing in 1958, to more than 100 million pieces of human-made space junk that orbits the Earth today.
It includes dead satellites, rocket parts, fuel tanks, paint flecks, nose cones, collision debris and more.
The amount of space junk has now reached a critical level, threatening Earth (more pieces are dangerously landing on Earth) as well as our future communications (one more collision in space could create a cascade of collisions, wiping out existing satellites that we rely on).
Adrift, a short documentary, follows the story of astronaut Piers Sellers who accidentally dropped his spatula in space in 2006. His spatula became a deadly piece of space junk, travelling at 17,000 miles per hour.
The film then journeys across the remote deserts of Chile with astronomer women reflecting on this hidden world, shifts to the current threatening skies inhabited by the International Space Station and tracks the crash of a rocket part back to Earth.
Adrift engages with the mysteries and contradictions of space junk: a sometimes beautiful, but potentially destructive museum of space exploration hurtling above our heads.
Space Debris and Human Spacecraft
Over the holiday period, we are highlighting science films featured in last year’s SCINEMA film festival.
SCINEMA is the largest science film festival in the southern hemisphere showcasing the best in science cinema from around the world. SCINEMA is a celebration of the power of the moving image to inspire the young, satisfy the curious, explain the baffling and ask the impossible.
You can read more about it, or even enter your own film, here.