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Astronauts Throw Trash Into Space 138

Posted by Hemos
from the out-of-sight-out-of-our-gravity-well dept.
MattSparkes writes "The International Space Station is home to an increasing amount of unwanted goods, and NASA has just approved a policy where these could be thrown out of the door into space. 'Tools and other gear have accidentally floated away during spacewalks. But NASA has shied away from intentionally jettisoning gear off the ISS in the past because of the threat of space junk hitting the station or other spacecraft.' The loosening of the rules on this comes just as Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin is about to take a space walk where he will hit a golf ball from the ISS in a promotional stunt for a golf company."
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Astronauts Throw Trash Into Space

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  • by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Monday November 13, 2006 @08:17AM (#16821816)
    It starts with a piece of trash and quickly turns into a terrible neighborhood. Next thing you know, it'll be the International Space Crackhouse.

    I told you we shouldn't have let those Russians in.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MattSparkes (950531)
      The Russians are playing nice in space, it's all golf for them. It's the Americans who'll be throwing trash around!
      • by fbjon (692006)
        I prefer having some papers blow into my windshield rather than golfballs at orbital speed, thank you.


        Says Mikhail Tyurin: "Fore!"

        • by quanticle (843097)
          Kinetic energy is measured as (1/2)mv^2. At orbital speed, your velocity is so high that it really doesn't matter whether you hit paper, golf balls, or stray bolts. Whatever you hit will be going fast enough to cause damage.
    • Next thing you know, it'll be the International Space Crackhouse.

      Since there's an IHOP within 3 blocks of every crackhouse that I know of, this is really a blessing in disguise.
      BBH
    • by Sporkinum (655143) on Monday November 13, 2006 @09:05AM (#16822204)
      International Space Crackhouse.

      Ground control to Major Tom....
      • International Space Crackhouse.
        Ground control to Major Tom....

        Lemme guess... You've got a message for the Action Man?

  • by aadvancedGIR (959466) on Monday November 13, 2006 @08:22AM (#16821854)
    and criminal.

    They could pack their trash and, with minimal thrust, send it on a quick reentry path in which it will burn in higher atmosphere a few days or weeks later. On the other hand, if they just dump things at random, they may be their own victims mounthes to years later.
    • by Noryungi (70322) on Monday November 13, 2006 @08:34AM (#16821960) Homepage Journal
      They could pack their trash and, with minimal thrust, send it on a quick reentry path in which it will burn in higher atmosphere a few days or weeks later.


      Exactly, there is no reason not to incinerate their trash. I can't believe this is 2006, people have been going into space for more than 40 years now [wikipedia.org], and they still are throwing trash overboard even though [nasa.gov] they know the danger [nationalgeographic.com]. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
      • by SysKoll (48967) on Monday November 13, 2006 @09:33AM (#16822458)

        They could pack their trash and, with minimal thrust, send it on a quick reentry path in which it will burn in higher atmosphere a few days or weeks later.

        Yeah, because see, all these rocket scientists, they are well known for bein' stoopid. Ain't that a shame to pollute them purty stars.

        SARCASM_MODE=OFF

        If all you needed to deorbit something thrown from the ISS was a "small amount of thrust", don't you think that atmospheric drag would have already deorbitted the ISS itself?

        In order to deorbit something, you need a very considerable amount of thrust, with an engine and propellant brought up from Earth at enormous cost. Left to its own device, a low-density object such as a bag of trash is going to slowly lose altitude due to atmospheric drag, then burn. No need for propellants. Good old air envelope does the trick.

        As for reusing it, I'm afraid that a sizeable fraction of the trash is, er, astronaut dung. I doubt the reuse value of human waste is very high in space, until we have complete hydroponic gardens.

        there is no reason not to incinerate their trash.

        Incinerate? Whaaa?? Look, this is space, ok? Having a simple combustion chamber working in space would be a major, major physics achievement. There is no convection, so flames don't behave as expected. There are whole experiments studying a simple candle flame in space.

        Never mind the fact that you'd need oxygen and fuel, brought from Earth at enormous cost, to burn wet waste.

        The only way to incinerate things in space practically would be with a electric plasma arc, which in turn would requires a really large energy input. So until the ISS flies several isotope generators, there will be no such thing.

        Remember, these decisions are made by people who actually know what's going on. The only problem is that they obviously don't communicate their reasons, since Slashdot readers -- Slashdot readers! -- feel compelled to call them stupid.

        • by tomhudson (43916)

          Having a simple combustion chamber working in space would be a major, major physics achievement.

          So the moon landings really were a hoax?

          Gee, next you'll be saying that rockets can't work in space because "there's no air for them to push against."

          And, btw, the ISS does have to be nudged on occasion, because its orbit DOES decay with time due to drag.

          A solar sail could safely deorbit junk at minimal cost.

          • I believe the point he is trying to make is, in space there is no up or down. Gravity is not there to move cold air down and warm air up, so flames will... actually, I have no idea what they will do. If I had to guess, I would say that they wouldn't burn very fast at all.
            • There's gravity in space. Otherwise, the space station would just shoot off away from earth, instead of orbiting it.
          • by SysKoll (48967)

            A rocket is not a closed combustion chamber. You are not trying to burn wet waste in an oven, you are generating hot gases -- by burning some hypergolic mix or some solid propellant. Different things.

            Amazingly little is known about how a standing fire (as opposed to a burning jet of gases) behaves in low gravity. See for example http://microgravity.grc.nasa.gov/fcarchive/combust ion/papers/Sacksteder/Solid_Surface_Combustion.htm [nasa.gov]. Thus, any process requiring a standing fire in low grav is not a practical

            • by tomhudson (43916)
              1. You didn't say a "closed combustion chamber" You said "combustion chamber" - and those are definitely available and work in space.
              2. As for "Amazingly little is known about how a standing fire (as opposed to a burning jet of gases) behaves in low gravity.", not all that much is known about a candle flame on earth, either, despite several millennia of experience. Buckyballs were only discovered in 1985, and it was only years later that people figured out that candle flames produced them naturally.
              3. Re: cost o
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Aladrin (926209)
          You really shouldn't pick apart a piece of someone's text at a time. You're taking what he said out of context.

          When he said 'incinerate their trash', it sounds to me like he meant to use the atmosphere to incinerate it. No need for any equipment for that.

          As for the little thrust... A person could throw it with the hand towards the earth and have more than enough 'thrust' to 'deorbit' it. Orbit is a VERY precarious balancing act. Just a little higher or lower, faster or slower and you lose it. Throwing
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by roystgnr (4015)
            A person could throw it with the hand towards the earth and have more than enough 'thrust' to 'deorbit' it. Orbit is a VERY precarious balancing act. Just a little higher or lower, faster or slower and you lose it.

            No, you don't lose it (otherwise every little tidal perturbation would be knocking satellites from the sky), you just change it. To actually immediately leave orbit from the ISS you'd need more than 100m/s delta V, which you're not going to get from someone throwing a bag of trash by hand even i
            • by Aladrin (926209)
              Oh, it's a horrid, horrid idea, I'll agree with you there. But I think they are thinking what you just said: Throw it into a lower orbit and let the atmosphere take over. This could obviously take quite a while if insufficient force is applied.
          • by HTH NE1 (675604)
            You really shouldn't pick apart a piece of someone's text at a time. You're taking what he said out of context.

            Yes, leave it to the professionals: Usenetters.

            As for the little thrust... A person could throw it with the hand towards the earth and have more than enough 'thrust' to 'deorbit' it. Orbit is a VERY precarious balancing act. Just a little higher or lower, faster or slower and you lose it. Throwing the trash back the way they just came from would have the same result as throwing it toward the earth:
          • by SysKoll (48967)

            A person could throw it with the hand towards the earth and have more than enough 'thrust' to 'deorbit' it. Orbit is a VERY precarious balancing act. Just a little higher or lower, faster or slower and you lose it.

            Aladrin,

            Deorbiting almost always means "leaving orbit and reaching the surface". That's not the same as "changing orbit". You are right when you say an orbit is precarious: by definition, a few more meters per second will give you a slighly different orbit, with differences accumulating quickl

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Noryungi (70322)
          Hmmmm... I love the smell of a flame war early in the morning...

          Yeah, because see, all these rocket scientists, they are well known for bein' stoopid. Ain't that a shame to pollute them purty stars.

          Let me help you understand what's at stake here. This quote is from the TFA, that you obviously haven't read:

          Tools and other gear have accidentally floated away during spacewalks. But NASA has shied away from intentionally jettisoning gear off the ISS in the past because of the threat of space junk hitting the

          • by Ruzty (46204)
            Besides, here is a proposal: human feces, like a lot of feces out there, generate methane. Why not harness that small amount of methane to propel said "dung" back into the Earth atmosphere?

            Because the methane is produced when the dung biodegrades. The microbes that perform this function are severly hampered by being frozen solid. So, unless you're proposing building a methane capture and concentration unit on the ISS as well as supplying enough O2 required for combustion of the methane, your proposal i
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by drinkypoo (153816)
          In order to deorbit something, you need a very considerable amount of thrust, with an engine and propellant brought up from Earth at enormous cost.

          Actually, all you need is a ribbon [nasa.gov].

      • by dougmc (70836)

        I can't believe this is 2006, people have been going into space for more than 40 years now, and they still are throwing trash overboard even though they know the danger. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

        It's not stupid at all.

        ISS is in a rare (unique?) position as far as satellites go -- it's very low, only about 200 miles up. At this altitude, atmosphere drag is a signifigant force, and will make sure that any trash let out of the ISS will not stay in the vicinity of the ISS for long. If you were to push a

        • by dougmc (70836)

          (Perhaps by dumping all your trash only when over a specific area of the planet?)

          Just in case anybody gets the wrong idea from this, the trash won't *stay* over that specific area of the planet. Instead, it'll orbit along with the ISS, slowly losing altitude and drifting away (I imagine that initially it would drift behind the ISS, but as it lost altitude and fell into a lower altitude it would get ahead of the ISS.) The rate of altitude loss would vary depending on the drag and weight of each piece o

    • by Vihai (668734)
      They could pack their trash and, with minimal thrust, send it on a quick reentry path

      Can you quantify this "minimal thrust" ?

      • No, I can't do the math. But considering that they would only have to help gravitation instead of fighting against it, I'm still sure of my words.

        The ISS is globally on an almost stable orbit, requiring some thrust from time to time to make up for the light air friction. From that position, if you eject the trash at only a few m/s in the right direction, it will soon go down to altitudes where the air friction will be higher, be slowed down from its orbital speed and fall. Since you don't want a controled r
        • Its that very gravitation that is keeping them in orbit - its not flying, its falling with style. In orbital dynamics, speed and altitude are linked. Geo-sychronous orbit is not a function of simply sitting at the same spot over a point on earth, you have to be at the right altitude for it to work. In order for you to de-orbit something, you have to apply a non-trivial amount of force in the opposite direction, causing it to slow, which will cause its orbit to decay. This force has to be some significan
        • by nahdude812 (88157) *
          IANARS, but Newton tells us that giving the debris a small boost toward Earth would add the same momentum to them in the opposite direction. Meaning that this would interfere with their orbit a bit, which would have to be corrected with thrusters (though they could probably also time their debris ejection with a time that they need outward thrust to maintain their orbit anyway).

          Even still, terminal velocity would be reached on this trash before it had entered very far into the atmosphere. By Nasa's space
      • by SirCyn (694031) on Monday November 13, 2006 @10:21AM (#16822964) Journal
        IANARS!
        Having an astronaut literally throw a typical size bag of trash toward the Earth would be sufficient acceleration (or deceleration depending on your point of view) to cause it to burn up within a couple weeks. And better yet it would instantly be in a non-intersecting orbit with the ISS.

        In the past they haven't done this because it will cause the ISS to be accelerated into a higher orbit. The difference would be minimal, but certainly measurable. The ISS is not very well equipped to deal with such problems (remember that it is technically falling all the time normally). Apparently NASA has decided that this effect is minimal enough that it would not be detrimental to the ISS orbit.
        • by Mindwarp (15738) on Monday November 13, 2006 @11:05AM (#16823482) Homepage Journal
          Actually, no. If an astronaut were to throw a bag of trash 'downwards' towards the Earth then its orbital velocity relative to the space station would increase (since it is moving into a lower orbit) so it would start to overtake the space station below it. As the orbital velocity increases it would start to again climb to a higher orbit, passing above the space station in front of it. As it gained a higher orbit than the space station its orbital velocity relative to the ISS would drop, causing the trash to drop to a lower orbit. In summary, if you throw anything out of the ISS down towards the Earth it will in fact pull a complete loop and end up impacting the top of the ISS.

          There is only one safe direction to throw anything out of an orbiting spacecraft - backwards, in the opposite direction of your orbit. By doing this you reduce the orbital velocity of the object relative to your spacecraft thereby guaranteeing that the object will enter a lower orbit from which it is guaranteed not to climb. At this point atmospheric drag will continue to degrade the objects orbit until it eventually burns up.
          • by fbjon (692006)
            The golfballs will be hit in that very direction, and are estimated to burn up in 3 days.
          • by 4D6963 (933028)

            By doing this you reduce the orbital velocity of the object relative to your spacecraft thereby guaranteeing that the object will enter a lower orbit from which it is guaranteed not to climb.

            Well, if we make abstraction of atmospheric drag (so we're talking about the short term, the first few orbits), it will come back right where you threw it, no matter in what direction you throw it, unless you threw it fast enough backwards (or even downwards, but I think it'd take a greater speed, not sure) so that it

    • by lavardo (683333)
      I say we just push it to Saturn or Jupiter every 3 months or something.

      • by elrous0 (869638) *
        March 2039, SETI receives its first alien message: "Stop sending us your damn trash! -Sincerely, The People of Alpha Centauri 4"

        -Eric

    • From TFA:

      "According to the new policy, the crew would release an object on a spacewalk by pushing it "behind" the station to speed up the separation between the ISS and the object and to decrease the amount of time it spends in orbit."

      So, they're not just gonna randomly toss objects around. Instead they'll toss them into a slightly lower orbit, where atmospheric drag (which DOES exist even at the orbit of the ISS, though it's very slight) will guarantee the objects will eventually spiral in and burn
    • Why do people think it's so easy to deorbit something? "Minimal thrust" will only turn it into a slightly eliptical orbit. Unless you slow it down enough that the perigee intersects the atmosphere, it's going to stay in orbit for along time.
  • by Frans Faase (648933) on Monday November 13, 2006 @08:28AM (#16821898) Homepage
    What about installing a device to eject garbage in the direction of the earth, so that they will be burned in the atmosphere as this would also help the ISS to maintain altitude. I realize that the effect would be minimal, but yet all small things might help. Anyway ejecting materials towards is always better than just let them float away.
    • I like this idea. Hell, even throwing the trash in the direction of the Earth on a space walk would be better than just letting it float away, and would also provide the altitude boost you suggested.
      • That would give a decent velocity to aim the stuff at earth so that it would burn up, and hopefully not end up in a high elliptical orbit.
        Plus it's re-usable and it's kind of cool.
      • by PFI_Optix (936301)
        Or perhaps sealing it in small spherical packages and hitting it with a stick. Like a golf club maybe.
      • by magarity (164372)
        even throwing the trash in the direction of the Earth
         
        You don't throw something toward the Earth to get it to go down from orbit unless you have an extremely strong firing mechanism. The correct method is to throw it directly behind the ISS. Then it will be moving too slow for that orbital height. That's how to make things fall from orbit.
    • There may be a few technical issues to solve (and it may not be optimal), but it really seem to be a good way to recycle junk into propelant, which is always a scarce resource in space flight.

      The problem is that if you simply pack your trash and eject it at high speed to get your thrust, you can only do that in some directions where there is nothing you might destroy, but fortunately, from the relatively low altitude of the ISS, the downward direction is cleared most of the time.
    • by Vihai (668734)

      What about installing a device to eject garbage in the direction of the earth, so that they will be burned in the atmosphere as this would also help the ISS to maintain altitude. I realize that the effect would be minimal, but yet all small things might help. Anyway ejecting materials towards is always better than just let them float away.

      If you throw thrash in the direction of the earth, it will come back and hit at the very same speed it was ejected and you will not gain altitude, you will just make y

      • WTF are you smoking? Please explain, yes, if it was thrown downwards with minimal velocity there is a chance the craft might hit it on the next orbit. Though of course that is assuming an exact circular orbit, most orbits spiral around the earth and don't cross the same path twice.
        • by Calinous (985536)
          If you throw something "down" when you are in orbit, that something will have the same speed as the space station. As a result, it will take a similar trajectory. Even better - if you throw something down, its speed will increase - so, it will have a trajectory higher than the space station. If you throw it directly down, the trajectories will intersect (maybe not at the same time, so no crash) as the junk will take its higher trajectory.
        • In orbit, velocity and altitude are related. If you "speed up," your altitude increases; if you "slow down," your altitude decreases. That part is "math" and is not negotiable or subject to interpretation.

          If you eject some mass (tools, trash, frozen excrement, etc) in the direction opposite to your current velocity vector, you'll speed up and increase altitude, and the reaction mass will slow down, taking a lower altitude. That eliminates most of the recontact issues, and is why NASA said what they did
      • by Calinous (985536)
        Very true. You need to throw it "back" - this way, it will have a lower speed, and will take a lower orbit.
    • by elvum (9344) * on Monday November 13, 2006 @10:00AM (#16822720) Journal
      The ISS needs boosting into a higher orbit periodically to avoid burning up anyway, so any rubbish they eject will burn up eventually. Ejecting rubbish in the direction of earth wouldn't help though - read up on the counter-intuitive nature of orbital mechanics :-)
      • by 4D6963 (933028)

        Ejecting rubbish in the direction of earth wouldn't help though

        Well it would make your orbit more excentric (or less, in particular cases), but if you do the same thing backwards, and if you can throw your litter fast enough and that you have enough of it, you could use that to avoid having to have to use any boosting in order to compensate atmospheric drag, in other words, you could do with a litter catapult what you do with the ISS's thrust.

    • Orbital mechanics 101: If you "throw" something from a given orbit towards the object it is orbiting, you are just changing the orbital altitude. Distance will decrease but orbital period also decreases, thus it stays in orbit. To get an object to "de-orbit" you would need to throw it backwards (that is in the opposite direction of travel).
    • by pipingguy (566974) *
      Give known spammers free trips to orbit and then tell them their first job is to toss the garbage towards the earth while connected to an untethered line.
  • by Takuryu (759826) on Monday November 13, 2006 @08:28AM (#16821900)
    ... after all, one man's trash is another man's treasure (if you believe that saying). I know of a number of people who would pay what I consider to be a fair sum of money just to own something that had been _in space_.

    Joking aside, how hard would it be to double-bag a few trash bags and keep the trash outside until a convenient "recovery" mission could come around?
    • by arootbeer (808234)
      ...to double-bag a few trash bags and keep the trash outside...
      Stupid space raccoons! I hate them so much!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Wait, when did they stop throwing trash into space to begin with?
  • Just my 2 cents.. Ok, first the Russians send tourists in to space.. and now do ads/stunts that may have an impact on the ISS? I know it is done on "their time" but doesn't this still impact you other members of the international crew? Its one small step towards all out anarchy!
  • If you know what happens to the jettisoned object, it's a fine policy. I understand that, after being pushed in the back direction from the station (i.e. behind it in the orbit), junk gets slowed down by whatever thin extent of athmosphere is at this attitude, and burns up in the atmosphere un a matter of days or weeks. The article also says that larger and denser objects may take longer before burn up, but they can be tracked by the ground stations (do they use radars?). If this outcome can be made predict
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by aadvancedGIR (959466)
      while reading your post, the fortune cooky just above was "Sodd's Second Law: Sooner or later, the worst possible set of circumstances is bound to occur.", right on topic, I would say.
  • by Morgaine (4316) on Monday November 13, 2006 @08:49AM (#16822088)
    Quite apart from the obvious dangers involved in dumping trash into orbit ...

    ISS trash isn't actually trash --- it's extremely valuable material (and mass) that has been boosted into LEO at very high cost.

    They should attach an extensible trash module to the ISS, and place all their "trash" (which simply means stuff that they cannot currently use) into the containers through appropriate hatches.

    (And I bet space contractors would love to bid for such a project too.)

    Not only would you reduce the risk to future flights this way, but you would also provide useful materials for the future. *AND* you'd be seen to be environmentally sensitive, which is no bad thing.
    • Good point, considering how much useful stuff is regularly acquired and recycled from plain old Earth dumpsters.
    • > ISS trash isn't actually trash --- it's extremely valuable material (and mass) that has been boosted into LEO at very high cost.

      Unfortunately, most of it has been processed through astronaut intestines.
      • Unfortunately, most of it has been processed through astronaut intestines.

        And that has it's uses too. If they ever decide to experiment with greenhouses in space (or on the moon or whatever) sterilizing that shit (pun intended) could conceivably be cheaper than bringing up dirt and fertilizer from earth. They would have to get over the psychological factor of knowing where your space tomatoes came from though, but since the water already is recycled from human "byproducs" that are already dealing with th

    • It would also allow the Smithsonian to one day open a great new exhibit: "10 Years of Frozen Astronaut Shit and Piss From the ISS."

      "See honey, I *told* you astronauts ate corn!"

      -Eric

      • by QuickFox (311231)
        "10 Years of Frozen Astronaut Shit and Piss From the ISS."

        Only the shit. The piss is recycled to become water. This is one of the less romantic aspects of humanity's great quest into space.
    • Actually most Progress modules are used for this - they are loaded with trash before being detatched and deorbited, burning up on reentry but theres no particular reason they couldnt be placed into a parking orbit for potential future use.
    • Actually, even human waste could have value if stored properly. From adding more inertia to the station (a double edged sword) to resist orbital drag, to a mass barrier around critical components (including the astronauts) as protection from orbital debris and radiation.

      Or to put it another way, in Soviet ISS, your crap saves you.
      • by 4D6963 (933028)

        From adding more inertia to the station (a double edged sword) to resist orbital drag

        Useless, since it would work against you when you would thrust in order to compensate atmospheric drag (not orbital drag).

        as protection from orbital debris and radiation

        Try protecting yourself from debris that go so fast that they do 10 times the damage you'd do with a bullet shot from a .357 Magnum with compressed packages of energy cereal bars and human crap, or whatever they mean by trash. Same with radiation, it wou

    • They should attach an extensible trash module to the ISS

      Like they're gonna spend money to launch trash containers.

      ISS trash isn't actually trash --- it's extremely valuable material (and mass) that has been boosted into LEO at very high cost.

      Every ounce you launch into orbit has a cost, and the extremely valuable materials you're talking about are not valuable anymore once they're considered trash and dumped in space. It's not because you put millions into something that it will always be worth million

  • There was this anime (PlanetES) where space trash caused a horrible shuttle accident resulting in everyone dying. While it is an anime, I wonder if it could become true sometime in the future with all the crap left over floating in space, what are the possibilities of, say, a screw flying into a sensitive part of the rocket or cracking a window, etc?
    • by Bill Wong (583178)
      Uh, the accident didn't actually kill everyone on the ship. Yuri Mihairokoh, one of the main characters, was on that space ship and survives the accident. His wife dies however and this is part of the reason why he starts collecting space debris -- in order to locate his wife's compass-pendant, which he does, later in the anime. I believe it's also roughly the same in the manga too. Did you actually pay any attention when you were watching Planetes? You should watch it over again...
      • by Ekhymosis (949557)
        My point wasn't whether there were survivors or not, nor the story, but the actual problem with the space debris/trash and future space travel. It might be a real problem sometime in the future, or it might not since we don't have information on space trash and space travel just yet.
    • The odd bits of garbage thrown overboard are a minimal risk compared to the number of satalites we have up there. I know space is *BIG* but the number of satalites is large and increasing.
      • by Jarlsberg (643324)
        The thing about satellites is that their position and orbit is known, while most of the garbage is impossible to track.
  • ISS observation deck window smashed when a frozen Hulk Grogan jettisoned from the ISS a few months earlier caught up with the ISS and smashed through the observation window. Leaves three astronauts severely smelly and in lack of air.
    • by karnal (22275)
      Leaves three astronauts severely smelly and in lack of air.

      If there's no air, are they still smelly?
  • What if the second garbage ball returns to Earth like the first one did?
    Who cares? That won't be for hundreds of years.
    Exactly! It's none of our concern.
  • I mean, if they make sure that they pack everything safely together so that it doesn't generate small particles, and if they give it a push towards earth I don't see a problem.
    By the way, I was wondering if it is possible to use a big bag of foam or gel, to sweep up small pieces of debris that could damage satellites or space stations.
  • Just as I thought the station itself would if they didn't boost the altitude from time to time.
  • by dpbsmith (263124) on Monday November 13, 2006 @10:16AM (#16822914) Homepage
    Pigs. Litterbugs. Someone ought to fine them $500. What can you say?

    But... after all... one of the pivotal episodes in Arthur C. Clarke's 1952 novel "Islands in the Sky" concerns an orbital spacecraft which is alarmed by the presence of a large, unidentified spacecraft, approach closely enough to identify it, and sees that it's covered in radiation symbols. In the novel, it turns out that the AEC had, at one time, had the bright idea of disposing of radioactive waste by shooting it into space, and this is a stray canister of high-level radioactive waste. So I guess it could be worse.

    And "throwing away" (such an aptly descriptive phrase: just toss the waste a discrete distance from the dwelling) seems to be a basic part of human nature. In Owen Wister's novel, "The Virginian," set in Wyoming between 1874 and 1890, the narrator and his companions partake of "Sardines... and potted chicken, and devilled ham," and muses:

    "But portable ready-made food plays of necessity a great part in the opening of a new country. These picnic pots and cans were the first of her trophies that Civilization dropped upon Wyoming's virgin soil. The cow-boy is now gone to worlds invisible; the wind has blown away the white ashes of his camp-fires; but the empty sardine box lies rusting over the face of the Western earth."
  • Interesting world where 'trash' can be defined as "stuff that we paid $10,000/lb to get up here, but we don't need anymore".
  • The premise of Planetes (a.k.a. Trashmen in Space) is that so much garbage will be put into orbit around Earth that it becomes dangerous to space traffic and we will need a dedicated "Space Debris" division to control it.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planetes [wikipedia.org]

    And so, it begins.
  • Actually, before flinging the trash into space they created a giant trash barge. It sailed around the world for years but no country would take it. Now they're hurling the garbage into space. It might come back, but there's no need to worry about that because it wouldn't happen for another thousand years or so...
  • Someone needs to contact the Internetional Space Station HomwOwners Association as I'm sure this is against the covenents ...
  • ... just get Adam Quark [wikipedia.org] to pick it up?

    Here bee, bee, bee, bee. Here bee, bee, bee, bee.
  • "ISS in a promotional stunt for a golf company."

    Contest - Program "Canada Arm", first one to hit a ball into a stationary orbit wins!
  • Man, bring this stuff back down on the space shuttle and run it on ebay. I bet some one would pay for a collection of tools used on the ISS!

    They may be able to recoup some of the cost... lol

  • These ISS guys, next thing you know, they'll have broken-down space shuttles cluttering up their yard.

    "There goes the neigborhood."
  • Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin is about to take a space walk where he will hit a golf ball from the ISS

    Either that, or he will hit the ISS and send himself flying. Stay tuned!

"You don't go out and kick a mad dog. If you have a mad dog with rabies, you take a gun and shoot him." -- Pat Robertson, TV Evangelist, about Muammar Kadhafy

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