Space: The Great Dustbin in the Sky

The Earth's Orbit is littered with space junk.  Bits of broken satellites,

shuttle craft and other abandoned bits and bobs. It's a huge problem

and a danger to all spaceships and astronauts.

How much space trash is there?

NASA is tracking more than 500,000 pieces of space debris, larger than a marble, orbiting Earth.

More than 200 objects – mostly bags of trash, were released from space station MIR in its first 10 years.  

The oldest piece of debris still in orbit was the Vanguard Satellite launched in 1958!

In 2007 China blew up an old weather satellite with a missile, and added more than 3,000 pieces of debris in one go!   Ooops!

How dangerous is it?
Very!  A window on the STS-7 shuttle had to be replaced because a paint flake punched a hole in the windscreen.  Ooops!  And would you like to be hit by a bit of space junk moving at 7 km per second! Ouch!

In 1965 during the first US space walk an astronaut lost a glove.   The glove stayed in orbit for a month – travelling at 28,000kph!

A crash between two satellites in 2009 left 1,500 pieces of junk whizzing round at 7.8 km per second.   Crunch!

So who's going to clean it up - and how?
Well, no one country is responsible for cleaning up space. And you can’t just go up there and move somebody else's stuff without permission!    And who's going pay for the clean up?

NASA has considered many proposals for cleaning up space, including:
¥    mesh nets strung between inflatable booms;
¥    unmanned collecting barges to fly around picking up trash;
¥    and giant panels of foam or polystyrene type gel to catch trash, like catching bugs on a windscreen.

And then there's the CleanSpace One satellite.   It's scheduled to launch into orbit in 2018 to collect space debris with a giant a claw.
Not to mention plans to use harpoons, lasers and lassoes!

Space Junk!

Meanwhile in Galaxy 43b . . .

Chief Rubbish Officer Scrummage is proud of the ship’s Galaxy Class garbage kit: 

the Nebula 30X-1 net
the Megatron 16XL Magno Beam
the Ultrawave 3.2 Vacuum Pump!

Oh Yuk!

Human Waste

How do you use the loo in space?
Since there’s no gravity in space, what happens to the poo and wee in the toilet?   Er – they float up towards your bare bottom!


Space Loos!
You have to use use a zero gravity toilet.    There’s a special training toilet with a video camera under the rim to make sure you are sitting on it properly!    Don't forget to smile!

Space Flush!
The toilet uses flowing air instead of water to 'flush' the toilet, pulling the waste away.  Afterwards, the air is filtered to remove bacteria and smells, and is refused.  Oh, yuk!

What happens to the poo?
Basically – the poo is freeze dried, packed in bags and returned to earth.  More yuk!

What happens to the wee?
On space shuttles the wee is often released into space.  But on the International Space Station it's treated and re-used as drinking water.  
Oh, even more yuk!

Find out more about space at:
NASA Kids Club
National Space Centre, Leicester