Scientific American presents Everyday Einstein by Quick & Dirty Tips. Scientific American and Quick & Dirty Tips are both Macmillan companies.

Hi, I’m Dr. Sabrina Stierwalt, the Everyday Einstein, here with Quick and Dirty Tips to help you make sense of science.

This coming week is a holiday here in the United States in which we celebrate the life and accomplishments of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, a civil rights activist who played an important role in ending segregation.

In his commencement address at Oberlin College in 1965, MLK said:

“Through our scientific and technological genius, we've made of this world a neighborhood. And now through our moral and ethical commitment we must make of it a brotherhood. We must all learn to live together as brothers—or we will all perish together as fools.”

In honor of this message, let’s talk about what helps to make this world “a neighborhood” – something we rely on when driving to a new place, when watching news from all over the world, and even when predicting the weather. I’m talking about satellites, of course!

How far from Earth are they and what happens to them when they stop working? How much other space junk is actually out there and what is it doing?

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