There are about 20,000 known pieces of space debris are currently orbiting the Earth.It all begins in 1957 when the Soviet Union launches Sputnik, a 58.5-centimeter-wide ball emitting radio pulses. A piece of the rocket that took it into orbit was the very first piece of space junk. The United States launched its own satellite, Explorer 1, the next year. Almost every mission into space has created new debris, either from the launch vehicles, objects falling off satellites, or unintended collisions.
This visualization, created by Dr Stuart Grey, lecturer at University College London and part of the Space Geodesy and Navigation Laboratory, shows how the amount of space debris increased from 1957 to 2015, using data on the precise location of each piece of junk (Video credit: Stuart Grey)