CLEANING UP: Swiss scientists plan to launch a “janitor satellite” specially designed to get rid of orbiting debris known as space junk.
DETAILS: The $11 million satellite called CleanSpace One is being built. The launch is expected within three to five years, and its first tasks are to grab two Swiss satellites launched in 2009 and 2010.
BIG MESS: NASA says more than 500,000 pieces of spent rocket stages, broken satellites and other debris are being tracked as they orbit Earth. The debris travels fast enough to destroy or inflict costly and time-draining damage on a satellite or spacecraft.