What goes up, nearly always comes back down. When it comes to the objects we send to space, atmospheric reentries are actually a fundamental tool in minimising the creation of space debris and ensuring a sustainable future in space.
Objects in low-Earth orbit, affected by the 'drag' forces caused by Earth's atmosphere, gradually lower in altitude and then make a rapid and fiery descent towards Earth.
Small objects disintegrate as they reenter due to the immense friction and heat created, but parts of larger bodies can reach the ground so should be controlled to land over uninhabited regions.
Join Stijn Lemmens and Jorge del Rio Vera to find out more about why this matters in the joint ESA-UN podcast that narrates this infographic.