I guess some people are scared that this is what will happen if we launch garbage out into space. That after we start doing it long enough, we'll realize that once again, man has fucked around with the natural balance in ways he shouldn't have, and that all our trash will harm some society in a distant galaxy, or perhaps come hurtling back towards the Earth and wipe out life like we suppose some comet did long ago (this happened on an episode of Futurama, IIRC). I say, just launch the trash directly at the sun, where it will be burned up, unable to harm anyone. True, we don't know for sure what the long-term effects on the sun will be, since it's never had anything fly into it before, but it seems like a pretty safe bet to me.

I guess the biggest problem with this is that it costs a lot of money to send ships into space, and we can't justify it without doing it in the name of scientific discovery. Joe Blow American doesn't want to hear that his hard-earned tax dollars are being spent to litter outer space. But when tough comes to shit, and 100 years from now garbage starts spewing out of the ground in the cities that are built on top of landfills a la that one episode of the Simpsons, trash in space may be our only option.

Actually, there is already a flotilla of deadly space junk above our heads. There are many dead satellites spiraling downwards towards their doom. Most of the junk will burn up, so it won't bother us much here on the surface of the planet.

The big problem is all the crap that continues to float around in orbit and the danger it presents to folks and the functional orbiting devices. NASA tracks most of the significant space junk, but there are thousands of smaller pieces of junk that litter the skies. On a recent Space Shuttle - Space Station mission, an astronaut lost a tool, which floated away. When the Apollo missions were going on, they spread bits of metal and the occasional bolt into an orbiting pattern. These bits of space junk are traveling at a high velocity. They are too small to track, and any two colliding will send them off in unpredictable directions. A nut made in 1969 can still do major damage to a solar panel made in 2000.

Unfortunately, crap will continue to accumulate until something major is damaged or people are killed. Hopefully no country will become silly enough to put nuclear missile platforms in orbit, lest one nut become the downfall of us all.

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