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Space

Space Station Turning Into a Trash Heap 312

quintin3265 writes "Apparently, the International Space Station is becoming overloaded with junk, stored among other places in a now unused airlock. Since shuttles aren't visiting the station, the station's occupants can't return broken machines to Earth. Furthermore, the only way they can dispose of trash and human waste is by loading these items in Russian cargo ships that burn up in the atmosphere."
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Space Station Turning Into a Trash Heap

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  • what?? (Score:3, Funny)

    by trick-knee ( 645386 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @06:33PM (#10434404) Homepage
    sure they can return the stuff. just open the hatch and shove it out! let gravity do the rest.
    • Re:what?? (Score:5, Informative)

      by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) * <{akaimbatman} {at} {gmail.com}> on Monday October 04, 2004 @06:35PM (#10434418) Homepage Journal
      They're at orbital velocity. It isn't going to fall, it's just going to sit near the station. And if any of it collides with micro-meteorites or space debris, it could come back and hit the station.

      Not to mention that they'd create a minefield for resupply missions.

      • Re:what?? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by armyofone ( 594988 )
        Good point but, seems to me that a small, disposable propulsion rocket would take care of that. One small push and voila! Instant meteor shower for us surface-dwellers.

        • Re:what?? (Score:5, Informative)

          by gnuman99 ( 746007 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @06:43PM (#10434497)
          Good point but, seems to me that a small, disposable propulsion rocket would take care of that. One small push and voila! Instant meteor shower for us surface-dwellers.

          This is what Progress supply rockets did for Mir, BTW. Supplied fuel, food, air, water, etc.. to the station and took garbage back and burned up in the atmosphere. Cheap and effective.

        • I don't think they have portable rockets on the station, and there wouldn't be room in the russian supply ships for such bulky items.
          • Re:what?? (Score:2, Funny)

            by Anonymous Coward
            why not use rubber bands for propulsion?
        • If they have the cargo space to haul all that stuff up there in the first place, you'd think they would have some room to bring the trash back with them for disposal here on Earth.

          --
          Always current promotions at Circuit City. [dealsites.net]
          • Re:what?? (Score:2, Interesting)

            by dealsites ( 746817 )
            I meant that they should have thought about it in the first place, and brought back unneeded stuff during each trip at the time, rather than letting junk build up.
            • Re:what?? (Score:5, Insightful)

              by SurgeonGeneral ( 212572 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @07:52PM (#10435071) Journal
              they should have thought about it in the first place, and brought back unneeded stuff during each trip at the time, rather than letting junk build up.

              This is indicative of the general situation about space travel. As the populous of nations that make journeys to space, we should be embarrassed and distraught. The last 40 years of space travel have been stale and unproductive, despite huge rises in government expenditure and GNP.

              The failure of the International Space Station is an embarressment for humankind in general. Not only does it show that we cant work together as a species in one of the most important areas with one of the highest productive scientific potentials ever, but it shows that people in general (Especially politicians) care only about themselves. Knowledge and progress mean nothing to politicians and the general population. Instead we spend trillions incarcerating each other, giving corporations tax breaks and polluting the environment. It is perhaps ironic that the fruits of space travel would solve many of our problems, most importantly THE ENVIRONMENT (the single most important thing that ANYONE should care about) and creation of jobs (of almost equal important)

              Space travel used to be a matter of national pride. As self esteem and pride goes down the toilet, and as politicians fight wars against drugs and "terror" (Is anyone REALLY terrified?) no one seems to care anymore.
              • Re:what?? (Score:3, Insightful)

                by hesiod ( 111176 )
                > Knowledge and progress mean nothing to politicians and the general population

                That's a bit one-sided... I believe those things are important to the majority. The difference is that the majority does not believe space travel will bring knowledge & progress, so it isn't worth their money at the moment. I disagree with that opinion, but there it is.

          • That probably was the plan... Problem is, there are no shuttles coming up anymore.
          • Re:what?? (Score:3, Informative)

            by Jason1729 ( 561790 )
            The cargo ships don't return to earth in one piece. They're allowed to burn up on re-entry. On the manned modules return and they don't have the space for the garbage.

            The shuttles had more room for garbage but they aren't flying now.

            Jason
            ProfQuotes [profquotes.com]
            • The cargo ships don't return to earth in one piece. They're allowed to burn up on re-entry.

              Why not just fill them with garbage anyway then? If the heat of reentry is enough to burn up the ship, surely it could incinerate some trash that's carried along with it.
      • It will fall eventually, same as the ISS is slowly falling all the time due the ever so slight effects of air resistance slowing it down.

        Some of the junk could be thrown 'out the back' of the ISS to try and help maintain the station's orbit, but the effects would be minimal. Unless it's a really large amount of poo at very high speed.

        • Re:what?? (Score:3, Funny)

          by AeroIllini ( 726211 )
          Some of the junk could be thrown 'out the back' of the ISS to try and help maintain the station's orbit, but the effects would be minimal. Unless it's a really large amount of poo at very high speed.

          Or I suppose the next Progress resupply could bring up a giant poo cannon...
      • They're at orbital velocity. It isn't going to fall, it's just going to sit near the station.

        Ah, but if they go on spacewalk in order to heave it behind (relative to orbital path) the station, the station will pick up orbital speed and the trash will loose orbital speed. They'll use a little less fuel in height correction and the garbage will fall to the atmosphere and everyone wins! That's what all rocketry boils down to doing; throwing something (usually burning fuel) out the back in order move fowa
      • Re:what?? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Doc Ruby ( 173196 )
        OK, they don't shove it "down", they just shove it. At least some fraction of that force vector will be opposed to the tangent to orbit, so its velocity will decrease in that direction, below orbital velocity. Its orbit should decay, and burn it on reentry, however slow.

        BTW, this is one of the more useful lessons of space exploration: there is no "away" in "throwing away" - it always comes back to haunt you. It's just that in space, no one can hide your scrap.
      • An idea... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by TiggertheMad ( 556308 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @07:32PM (#10434908) Homepage Journal
        (because we all know that NASA engineers hang out at /. for ideas to dump garbage...)

        There are 2 ways you are going to get rid of trash from the space station. Carry it home in the space shuttle, or launch it somewhere.

        The Russian ships don't have room to carry stuff back, but here is the thing, you don't have to carry it ALL the way home. Grab a hefty bag, stuff it with trash, and tie it to the back of the capsul as you head back to Earth. You can either release it once it has enough momentum to quickly leave orbit, or drag it in behind you and let it seperate as it burns up.

        Alternately, if you go with the 'Dump the trash before entering hyperspace' Imperial method, you have to have a way to get it clear of anywhere you might want to travel. Since we don't know WHERE we might want to travel, just launching it into space to float around for a few billion years seems...shortsighted. So, either a) burn it up by shooting it at the sun, or drop it on a planet.

        So how do we do that, cheaply? There was a solar sail technology developed a year or two back, which involved a magnetically generated sail. Would it be cost effective to put a small power source on your trash, and fire it off at a target? I recall that the technology didn't seem too complicated, and the speeds that it could attain were fairly large. Just don't use one of those nuclear batteries mentioned a few days ago on /. to power it if you plan to drop it on Earth. While the ammount of radioactive material that was burned up would be inconsequential, the Luddites would go berserk...
      • and if it is thrown "down" towards earth? What then?
        • It doesn't go down like you think. Instead its orbit flattens and it might come back and smack you when you least expect it. (Draw a circle and an elipse around a point. See where they cross? That's the problem.)
    • Re:what?? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Marxist Hacker 42 ( 638312 ) * <seebert42@gmail.com> on Monday October 04, 2004 @06:38PM (#10434453) Homepage Journal
      Have to launch it and send it in the opposite direction of orbit for it to fall; but damn, in microgravity it shouldn't be that hard to come up with a spring loaded trash disposal system.....
      • A problem with such a system might be the tendency for ejected material to hit the outer atmosphere and skip like a stone, bouncing back out into orbit, and into trouble.
        • Re:what?? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Marxist Hacker 42 ( 638312 ) * <seebert42@gmail.com> on Monday October 04, 2004 @06:49PM (#10434550) Homepage Journal
          Depends on the direction- launch it in the same orbital plane, but forward, adds momentum and it moves into a higher orbit. Launch it BACKWARDS in the same orbital plane and it would simply spiral in, and be going slow enough not to skip off the outer atmosphere.
          • Re:what?? (Score:3, Interesting)

            What trespass is saying is that you'd need a guidance system to get the trash into a decay orbit, or you might meet your trash in it's rebounding orbit.

            Anything you meet in space is traveling very very fast.

            Ever seen someone flick a cigarette butt out the window of his truck, and have it land in his load of firewood in the back? Oops is a word you don't want to hear in space.

            • Re:what?? (Score:5, Funny)

              by Dirtside ( 91468 ) on Tuesday October 05, 2004 @01:37AM (#10436944) Journal
              Oops is a word you don't want to hear in space.
              In space, no one can hear you say "Oops."
      • Re:what?? (Score:5, Informative)

        by iendedi ( 687301 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @06:49PM (#10434553) Journal
        You would have to launch an equal mass at the earth and in the opposite direction (deep space?) in order to counter the orbit shifting effect of lobbing mass off of a space station (remember Newton's laws?).
        • True enough- but you've got plenty of garbage. Yep- shove it forward and it will move to a higher orbit, due to centripetal force working against the gravity of the earth..
        • So you make two systems. One for deep space and one for earth burn-up. You use really heavy duty trash bags (like the contractor bags), stuff them full of trash, take them out, and fire them off at the same time. (Actually, since the Space Station has to, every once in a while, fire its jets to maintain its orbit, some times you will only need one of the two systems.)

          I can see it now: Centuries from now, The U.S.S. Enterprise is going along when suddenly - SLAM! One of these bags hits it. Kirk and Sp
        • Since fuel must normally be expended to re-boost the space station, you're just pointing out an added benefit of shooting the garbage back at earth.
      • Re:what?? (Score:5, Funny)

        by RealAlaskan ( 576404 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @06:55PM (#10434610) Homepage Journal
        Have to launch it and send it in the opposite direction of orbit for it to fall; but damn, in microgravity it shouldn't be that hard to come up with a spring loaded trash disposal system.....

        For evey action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. If you change the orbit of the excrement, you also slightly change the orbit of the space station. Since there's a bit of atmospheric drag in that low orbit, that might be a good thing. De-orbiting the trash will tend to counter the drag which is slowing the space station.

        So, we change orbits by flinging poo. We'll call it the monkey drive.

    • relativity (Score:2, Insightful)

      by kwelch007 ( 197081 )
      Uhhh...for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Wouldn't such a "shove" cause a deviation in the station's orbit?
      • Actually this is perfect, just have a big arm that throws trash down, causing the station to boost into a higher orbit. Now I have this image stuck in my head of a big white-gloved cartoon arm throwing trash at the earth as the space station flies off into space....
    • Space Garbage (Score:5, Informative)

      by lilmouse ( 310335 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @06:42PM (#10434491)
      Space Garbage is actually a really big problem with the ppl at NASA. We've already dumped a huge amount of junk in orbit, and it really does just kind of stay around in orbit.

      An alternate you might suggest is toss it out hard enough to fall into the atmosphere and burn up... Think again! If you do that, you push yourself away from the earth, destabilize your orbit, and lose the station.

      A non-trivial problem...

      We need a space elevator! ;-)

      --LWM
      • An alternate you might suggest is toss it out hard enough to fall into the atmosphere and burn up... Think again! If you do that, you push yourself away from the earth, destabilize your orbit, and lose the station.

        Interestingly, the station needs a periodic reboost anyway.If they could use the trash as reaction mass, it would accomplish that and put the trash into a nice unstable orbit all set to burn up. The real problem is how to accelerate the trash enough. Mass drivers are cool, but they have nowher

      • You need a recoil-less space squirrel launcher [scarysquirrel.org]. With a stronger spring, and some crosshairs you could practise space skeet shooting with all that space junk orbiting the earth.

        Rather than ejecting space junk using a directional force, couldn't you use a couple of contra-rotating buckets (like a centrifuge). At the right angle, release the buckets and the junk would fly out and away.
      • Actually, they have been having this problem ever since the shuttle incident. I don't know how this is any news...

        If I had a better memory, I could probably tell who is working on it and what it is called, but there is a module developped by europeans that will solve this problem. It will basically bring supplies up and trash down at a lower cost than lunching a shuttle or a russian rocket.

  • That explains.... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jmcmunn ( 307798 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @06:33PM (#10434407)

    That explains the numerous meteor showers lately...they're just cleaning house or flushing the space toilet.

    Really though, won't most of the stuff they have there just burn up quickly upon reentry? can't they just get some big nets and laso all of the garbage together for a day or two and then give it a push towards Earth?
    • But, if you get the angle wrong, the stuff *could* re-enter the atmosphere (although, most of it would fry on the way down, but, what if some large chunk of metal manages to make it mostly intact? it would be moving pretty fast...); or, it might bounce off of the atmosphere, and fly off into space or enter some sort of bizarre orbit that may one day bring it into a crash path with other satellites.
      • Correct Angle= 180 degrees to direction of travel. Gravity does the rest as the garbage spirals in. Pretty easy to use the weight of the space station and a simple spring-launch mechanism for reaction mass to the garbage.
    • Re:That explains.... (Score:5, Informative)

      by imsabbel ( 611519 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @06:40PM (#10434476)
      The problem is that even if they "throw it down" towards earth, the orbital velocity will still be dominating. The initial push will just make the orbit a little more eliptic. Just think about it. they circle the earth in less then 2 hours. thats 20 000 km/h+. If they give it 100 or 200 kh/h boost, that wont even be noticable.
      And the last thing we need is literaly crap punshing holes in space shuttles ...
    • Hey, I think there might be a market for this. Man-made meteor showers could replace fireworks for the 4th of july!
  • snow (Score:5, Funny)

    by mothz ( 788133 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @06:35PM (#10434422)
    the only way they can dispose of trash and human waste is by loading these items in Russian cargo ships that burn up in the atmosphere.

    So even if the snow doesn't look yellow, it's probably not good to eat.
  • by datastalker ( 775227 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @06:36PM (#10434436) Homepage
    ...that I was upset with broken machines piling up in the cage in the datacenter... at least I don't live there! (Well, ok, not entirely.) Plus, I can go outside to escape looking at it, which is unfortunately not an option for the cosmo/astro-nauts.

    • And you don't have to poop on top of the same heap either:-)
    • "Wow, its nice being out here, all this empty room. Nice being able to move around freely ... not necessarily where I want to go of course ... wish I had that jetpack they promised me. I wonder if I'll run out of air or drift into flying space poop first? Gee, the inside of that cramped space module sucked, but at least it had air."
  • To the sun! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 04, 2004 @06:37PM (#10434446)
    Send them in the direction of THE SUN!

    Homer: The sun? That's the hottest place on Earth!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 04, 2004 @06:37PM (#10434448)
    Space stations are responsible for all the crap in the atmosphere?

    An unused airlock is where redneck america of the future will store all their unused junk, making the storage business obsolete.

    Imperial Space Stations always dump their trash before jumping to hyperspace. That's just standard procedure, duh!

    Major Tom to Ground Control -- mission accomplished...now how do I flush?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 04, 2004 @06:38PM (#10434452)
    Ships to: Worldwide
    Shipping: Check item description and payment instructions or contact seller for details
  • It seems that, once again we are unnecessarily endangerig the lives of astronauts for the political expedient of not wanting to abandon what the politicos spent so much money on. Isn't it time to bring these guys back before we have anothe wo entirely unnecessary deaths?

    NASA lost it's brains in the 80"s but has it entirely lost it's heart as well?

  • by hansoncoyne ( 411305 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @06:39PM (#10434469)
    Don't just dump your sh*t when nobody is looking. You may get caught [cbs2chicago.com].
  • nasa.ebay.com (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RobertB-DC ( 622190 ) * on Monday October 04, 2004 @06:40PM (#10434471) Homepage Journal
    Seriously, who *wouldn't* pay good money for "actual NASA-certified space junk"? Rutan had to have his people guarantee *not* to sell the ballast on the X-Prize flights, so clearly he thinks there's a market.

    If NASA can't sell space junk, then Congress needs to give them the ability to do so. It makes sense that you can't find another piece of the Shuttle in East Texas and sell it... it makes no sense that you can't take a blob of solder melted in space and sell *that*.
    • Re:nasa.ebay.com (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      If you read the article--or even the HEADLINE, come on--you'd know they can't get it down to Earth. Makes it a bit tricky to sell.
    • Re:nasa.ebay.com (Score:2, Insightful)

      by ganhawk ( 703420 )
      Seriously, If NASA started selling every bit of junk it can bring back to earth, it will no longer be a rare commodity and people will no longer pay exorbitant prices for it.

      BTW, I was replying to the parent where NASA can bring back space junk. Not in this case ...
    • I bet they could make a lot of cash on soiled astronaut panties...
  • One word... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Shadow Wrought ( 586631 ) <shadow.wrought@g ... om minus painter> on Monday October 04, 2004 @06:41PM (#10434479) Homepage Journal
    eBay. Buyer pays for shipping.
  • by Alien Being ( 18488 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @06:43PM (#10434495)
    We didn't say that the ISS is a garbage skow. We said it should be hauled away *as* garbage.
  • by moofdaddy ( 570503 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @06:44PM (#10434504) Homepage
    What abut a garage sale?
  • We're the protagonists in Spaceballs driving a space dump truck? Maybe they can help. Otherwise it'll be up to a private company to figure out how to fly up and get rid of it! ;)

    CB^%*&
  • Flaming Poo (Score:5, Funny)

    by killermookie ( 708026 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @06:45PM (#10434523) Homepage
    Furthermore, the only way they can dispose of trash and human waste is by loading these items in Russian cargo ships that burn up in the atmosphere.

    Let the flaming poo jokes commence.
    • Furthermore, the only way they can dispose of trash and human waste is by loading these items in Russian cargo ships that burn up in the atmosphere.

      Let the flaming poo jokes commence.


      Maybe RotoRooter [rotorooter.com] could set up a target in the South Pacific...

      **rimshot**

      ...come to think of it, that Taco [bbc.co.uk] Bell [salon.com] target [tacobell.com] was the same thing, wasn't it?

      **crowd boos, throws things on stage**
  • by fiannaFailMan ( 702447 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @06:46PM (#10434525) Journal
    Isn't the Trash Heap supposed to be all-seeing, all-wise, and all-knowing?
  • Shuttle vs Soyuz (Score:5, Interesting)

    by FTL ( 112112 ) * <slashdot@neil.f r a s er.name> on Monday October 04, 2004 @06:47PM (#10434537) Homepage
    For the day to day tasks of running a space program, nothing beats the Russian Soyuz vehicle. Cheap, simple, reliable and safe. But now and again you do need to get stuff down from orbit. Soyuz can't do that. Indeed the Russians loved it when the US shuttle visited Mir since it offered them a rare opportunity to bring back stuff.

    On the whole, the Shuttle has proved to be an impractical vehicle; it tries to be everything and does nothing properly. Most people in the industry now believe that the Shuttle flights should end 2010. Replace them with three different vehicles: a capsule like Soyuz for getting people into space and back again, expendable launches for hauling cargo up to space, and (something we haven't seen before) an inflatable return vehicle for bringing back large objects. I'm only aware of one instance of the latter, Russia has it (see last entry on this page [russianspaceweb.com]).

    • Foam? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mangu ( 126918 )
      (something we haven't seen before) an inflatable return vehicle for bringing back large objects.

      I once saw at an electronics equipment factory how they pack irregularly shaped objects. They have a gun which mixes two liquids. These react creating an unbelievable amount of foam. From two finger-sized blobs of liquid they get a box full of foam.

      So, why can't they use that kind of foam as an ablative heat shield? The two liquids could come in two glass tubes, inside a plastic bag. Twist the bag to break the

      • ...which about sums it up. You need some pretty kickass foam to survive reentry, even partially.

        And it's gotta be cheap, if you're using that much of it. Creating enough buoyancy to keep a large object afloat -- again, with only a partial (and unknown!) amount of foam remaining -- is going to take a lot of it.

        And it's gotta be non-soluble, if it's supposed to survive in an ocean long enough for a recovery team to find it.

        Then you gotta make it relatively non-toxic, because it will be entering our b

  • by sarcastro73 ( 793718 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @06:48PM (#10434543) Homepage
    It's difficult to get public support for research in space when they routinely encounter such problems. People expect Star Trek and are disappointed when real space ventures must deal with more down to earth problems as "Where do we store all the garbage?" No one ever used a toilet on the Enterprise.
    • by Jeremy Erwin ( 2054 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @09:15PM (#10435645) Journal
      Star Trek's writers may have shied from the problem, but Lucas advanced the plot with sanitation.

      HAN: (sarcastically) Oh! The garbage chute was a really wonderful
      idea. What an incredible smell you've discovered! Let's get out of
      here! Get away from there...


      and, in a later film

      HAN: Well, if they follow standard Imperial procedure, they'll dump
      their garbage before they go to light-speed, then we just float away.


  • Just use explosives dammit!
    Blow that trash to smithereens!!
  • by Greg@RageNet ( 39860 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @06:56PM (#10434620) Homepage
    I've seen lots of posts along the lines of 'just shove it out the airlock and let gravity do the rest'. The station and anything jetisonned from it orbit at a speed of 27,300 kph. Depending on which way and how hard you toss this stuff out of the airlock is is not likely to deorbit and burn up in the atmosphere. More likely it's going to drift in a slightly different orbit and perhaps someday it will intersect with the IIS again.. If you do the math of two objects traveling at 27,300kph even with a small intercept angle the speeds and energies involved in the two objects would be catostrophic to both apon impact. This is why you can't just 'toss trash out the airlock' while in orbit.

    -- Greg
    • by rco3 ( 198978 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @07:09PM (#10434720) Homepage
      Actually, Greg, two objects traveling at 27,300 kph and impacting each other might not damage each other at all. Like, say, if they're travelling in the same direction? The key, here, is the relative velocity between the two objects. If you dump it out the airlock with no serious acceleration, it's just going to stay in orbit with you. When it hits you again, it won't hit very hard. Problem is, neither will it leave orbit and fall down. THAT's why you can't just dump stuff out the airlock.
  • by Zocalo ( 252965 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @06:58PM (#10434634) Homepage
    The actual refuse is simply loaded up into the used Progress supply pods which are then de-orbited and burn up in the atmosphere. The stuff piling up on the station ideally wants to be returned to Earth, either for servicing (spacesuits are expensive), scientific analysis or proper disposal. Getting this sh^Htuff back to Earth ideally requires the shuttle, since the manned Russian Soyuz craft barely have room for the crews they are exchanging. True, you could jettison the stuff, but when even a paint fleck can cause significant collision damage at the kind of velocities involved, what do you think a broken exercise bike is going to do?
  • I guess now we can really call Ivan a shitstorm.
  • No problem (Score:5, Funny)

    by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @07:11PM (#10434735) Journal
    Getting rid of space trash is easy. Just mix it with anti-trash [slashdot.org].
  • by HBI ( 604924 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @07:13PM (#10434744) Journal
    Being aboard a mighty achievement of human science, and having your own shit piling up next to you for lack of a means to dispose it.

    It would be very demoralizing to me.
  • Hey! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Crispin Cowan ( 20238 ) <crispin@nOsPam.crispincowan.com> on Monday October 04, 2004 @07:17PM (#10434785) Homepage
    No sooner do they win the X-Prize [slashdot.org] than there's a new use for their Spaceship One :)

    Crispin

  • [rant] Since "chuck everything out of the airlock" seems to be the favored solution, let's look at some of the problems involved.
    As has been pointed out multiple times, the gravitational pull in high earth orbit isn't enough solve the problem. Think about it: if the station isn't affected by the pull of Earth's gravity, something with far less mass isn't going to feel the tug. It would take serious thrust to move the debris out of into an unstable orbit. Possible, but not practical.
    Assuming, of course, that
  • Then they can crush the trash into bricks/tiles and attach it to the outside of the ISS as a debris shield.
  • by El ( 94934 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @07:35PM (#10434930)
    Couldn't they just take up a few large, tightly-knit cargo nets and tie the junk to the outside of the station? It's only a problem if it gets loose, and hey, they might need that shit for something someday!
  • So that's not bird shit on my car?

    I should've known, what with all the empty cans of Tang in the driveway.

    IronChefMorimoto
  • by serutan ( 259622 ) <snoopdoug.geekazon@com> on Monday October 04, 2004 @07:37PM (#10434954) Homepage
    Nuclear rockets would completely solve the supply problem for orbital stations. Before you knee-jerk on the word "nuclear" read this fascinating engineering scheme [nuclearspace.com] for a fully reusable Saturn-V size nuclear rocket, using a Gas Core Nuclear Reactor (GCNR) engine. It's a 12-part article, but skip the first 6 sections if you just want to know how it works. Briefly, gaseous nuclear fuel encapsulated in a light-bulb-like quartz vessel heats up to about 25,000 degrees C, emitting intense ultraviolet light that heats hydrogen flowing around the outside of the bulb. The superheated, non-radioactive hydrogen then jets out of the rocket nozzle. The nuclear fuel stays confined and nothing ever touches it.

    Such a rocket could lift 2 million pounds of payload into low orbit (compared to the Shuttle's 60,000 pound capacity) and return with 2 million pounds of cargo to a powered landing rather than an unpowered glide. There is very little information about this technology on the web, but I believe the big aerospace firms are looking into GCNR as the heavy lift engine of the future.
  • that leave tires, cars on blocks or several project cars in the lawn and backyard, along with the vicious unfed scary big dog.

    So once Virgin gets his space travel thing together it wont be much different than looking down the block of our earth neighborhoods.
  • by lpontiac ( 173839 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @08:24PM (#10435298)
    *looks around at his room*

  • by karlandtanya ( 601084 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @09:31PM (#10435769)
    I didn't mean to say that the Enterprise should be hauling garbage.
    I meant to say that it should be hauled away AS garbage" -- Korax (The Trouble With Tribbles)
  • by jayrtfm ( 148260 ) <(moc.tnohpos) (ta) (hsalsj)> on Monday October 04, 2004 @10:25PM (#10436045) Homepage Journal
    We paid $10,000 per pound to get that "junk" up there, making it more valuable than gold. Ditto for the progress supply ships.

    Of course, this is the bureaucracy that junked an entire working space station....
  • by fuzzybunny ( 112938 ) on Tuesday October 05, 2004 @05:16AM (#10437547) Homepage Journal
    Wrap it up reeeaaal tight and good, and slap a plaque on it with a couple of stick figures making 'peace' signs, an abstract representation of human DNA, and a model of the solar system, give it a good swift kick and voila. You have a poor man's Voyager!

    Only problem would be if all that excreta and broken electronic junk somehow evolved, creating a bionic life form and coming back to haunt us a few hundred years from now as the Son of V'ger...

Who goeth a-borrowing goeth a-sorrowing. -- Thomas Tusser

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