An experimental mission carried out by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency to clean the earth’s orbit of decades-old space junk has ended in failure. Officials told AFP that the 700-metre long electrodynamic tether, which was made with thin wires of stainless steel and aluminium and meant to conduct the operation, re-entered the earth’s atmosphere before dawn on Monday.

The H-II Transfer Vehicle Kounotori 6 had been launched into space December 9 last year.

Although the vessel successfully sent supplies to astronauts at the International Space Station, it could not clear the debris, reported IANS. “It is certainly disappointing that we ended the mission without completing one of the main objectives,” leading researcher Koichi Inoue said.

There are still more than 100 million pieces of waste revolving around the planet. Although experts said the clutter could pose risks for future space exploration, they are hoping that they will eventually burn up once they enters the earth’s atmosphere, before the possibility of crashing into the planet.