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In turn, would that increase our gravitational pull?

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    $\begingroup$ Earth's mass is 6*10^21 tons. Even after 4.5 billion years (1.6*10^12 days) 50 tons a day would only add up to a few billionth of Earth's mass. Of course it makes Earth heavier and adds to Earth's gravitational pull. This is how earth was formed, it is just very much slower process now. $\endgroup$ – LocalFluff Sep 15 '15 at 20:59
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The Earth loses mass because hydrogen and helium (plus other elements in trace amounts compared to hydrogen and helium) escapes the Earth's atmosphere. The Earth gains mass because incoming asteroids (most of them very small) impact the Earth's atmosphere; a few make it all the way to the surface of the Earth. Whether those incoming asteroids burn up in the atmosphere or make it all the way to the surface is irrelevant; the Earth gains mass.

Whether the net result is a mass gain or mass loss is a bit up in the air; the uncertainties on both are rather large, and they overlap. The Earth might be gaining or losing a tiny bit of mass every year. That said, most research leans toward atmospheric losses being greater than mass gain from impacting asteroids, comets, and dust.

Whichever is the case, it's a bit irrelevant. Even the most extreme upper estimates on mass loss or mass accumulation are incredibly tiny compared to the mass of the Earth itself.

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The Earth has a net loss of mass each year. The infall of debris from space is more than matched mainly by the loss of hydrogen from the atmosphere.

According to the BBC radio show More or Less the net annual loss of mass is ~50,000 tons/year.

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  • $\begingroup$ That's really interesting. I wasn't aware it was that much. $\endgroup$ – userLTK Sep 16 '15 at 5:38
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    $\begingroup$ Note there is an error in the BBC link (it is not vital, to the topic here, but we might as well get it right). It refers to the 50,000 tonnes as being about half the gross weight of the Costa Concordia. The Gross Tonnage of the Concordia is/was about 114,000 but this is not related to mass but to the volume of the ship. The displacement (which is more or less the mass) is closer to 60,000 tonnes (estimated). $\endgroup$ – Conrad Turner Sep 16 '15 at 11:06
  • $\begingroup$ I have linked to your answer (and the BBC article) here: earthscience.stackexchange.com/a/16725/6031 $\endgroup$ – uhoh Apr 13 at 12:37
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Most of it burns up in the atmosphere and never actually makes it the surface. So no, as far as I know or have ever heard/read the Earth is not getting more massive. Any increase in mass due to space debris (or other things like more humans being born) is negligible compared to the mass of the Earth anyways so it has a null effect in terms of the gravitational attraction.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for your answer. Just for fun, let's say the world was over populated to the point we officially had to move to another planet for argument sake. At that point, would the weight of the population still be considered negligible? $\endgroup$ – JonathanScialpi Sep 15 '15 at 20:44
  • $\begingroup$ Are you sure? Where else would it end up, bounce up into escape velocity again? I'm sceptical. It doesn't matter for the mass addition weather it burns or not. $\endgroup$ – LocalFluff Sep 15 '15 at 21:00
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    $\begingroup$ The atmosphere is part of the Earth for the purposes of mass calculation, so"burns up in the atmosphere" still adds mass to the Earth. Also the mass of "humans beings being born" is mass that is already on Earth and so neither adds or takes from the mass of the Earth. $\endgroup$ – Conrad Turner Sep 16 '15 at 4:52
  • $\begingroup$ As others have said, this isn't correct. Pretty much everything that falls to the Earth adds mass to the Earth. Conrad Turner's point however might be correct. The earth might lose more in escaped hydrogen and helium than it adds in space dust every year. I don't want to vote you down but you're answer isn't right. $\endgroup$ – userLTK Sep 16 '15 at 5:33

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