You may recall that back in July astronauts aboard the space shuttle lost a spatula during a spacewalk. The continued abuse of our orbit has continued with the latest shuttle mission. Yesterday and again today, astronauts from the Atlantis lost bolts while working on additions to the international space station. I guess it wouldn’t be so bad if they weren’t using the military issue type of bolts that cost $17,000 a piece.
A new space debris watchdog group was formed after the spatula incident, now referred to as spat-gate, to police the careless disregard of our planet’s orbit. CCOP (Concerned Citizens for Orbital Protection) is lobbying anyone who will listen for the implementation of a fine and penalty system for any space program that loses or releases debris into our orbit. I bet CCOP is really mad now that we’ve added 2 bolts to their tracking list!
According to CCOP, the debris can range from tools and space garbage to satellites that are no longer operational. The amount of each fine will be determined in accordance with the size of the debris. It is CCOP’s hope that funds generated from orbital debris fines can be used to develop an orbital refuse collection and treatment facility that will be part of the International Space Station.
“Yeah, it’s a pretty stupid idea,” said one member of Congress who asked to be anonymous. “What’ll these guys think of next, protesting our congressional pay raises? I’d like to put them into orbit!”
Quick rudimentary math shows that we would have to dispose of several tons of space debris a day to come up with enough money to fund the research, construction, launch and installation of a space refuse plant. While driving into work this morning, I thought of a more fun way to learn about and deal with space debris. Just as we have adopt-a-highway, we can begin to adopt space debris. Elementary schools all over the world can sign up to “adopt” and track a “junk buddy.” While tracking their “junk buddy,” children can learn about how things orbit the earth and just how much damage the smallest amount of space trash can do when flying through space at several hundred miles an hour. Actually, young children would probably enjoy seeing violent space debris collisions, and so would I.
Personally, I would love to be able to track my very own piece of space debris. Maybe I’ll even name it. Maybe I’ll track two pieces and call them Andy and Barney. Imagine how much fun it will be as my space debris races other people’s “junk buddies.” We can wage bets to see whose debris is fastest. If we’re really lucky, over time all the debris will collide with each other and there will be an ultimate space debris champ, kind of like that robot fighting but with more serious consequences. Hopefully the astronauts will find a way to “lose” a toilet or two next time they endeavor a space walk. I could definitely adopt two inter-galactic orbital toilets. That would be pretty cool…