Destroying Space Garbage: Recycling Might Be a Better Choice?

The distribution of space debris larger than 1 millimeter across around Earth. (European Space Agency)

Health Editor’s Note:  I am not sure how cost efficient this will be. I actually see big dollars being spent on a process of futility. Send up an expensive robot to snag only one piece of space junk and then they both plunge to earth where they will obviously be destroyed. Well, it is theorized that they will burn up before reaching earth. Are we going to count on that?  How about the thought of where this thing is going to crash into earth if it does not burn up? We have six decades of space junk orbiting above our heads. Leave it to humans to find new spaces to clutter with litter. What do you think about this?…Carol

The European Space Agency Is Sending a Robot to Hug Junk Out of Space

by Katherine J. Wu/

For all its vastness, space is notoriously lacking in landfills.

That means a lot of the stuff we humans send out there—be it satellites or rocket parts—ends up indefinitely adrift in the cosmos after its job is done. No longer useful for missions and too cumbersome to move or destroy, space debris has spent the last six decades accumulating around our planet like a shroud of schmutz. And this halo of junk is more than an extraterrestrial eyesore: Its mere presence endangers active satellites and spacecraft.

As more probes are pushed into space, the congestion in Earth’s lower orbit is only increasing. But if all goes according to plan, humankind may soon have a way to combat that troubling trend.

In a statement released earlier this month, the European Space Agency announced plans to launch a tentacled robot into space that will remove a piece of abandoned junk from orbit. The mission, called ClearSpace-1, is quite the emotional rollercoaster. After enveloping a 265-pound hunk of debris called Vega Secondary Payload Adapter (VESPA) in a four-armed hug, the robot will boomerang back to Earth—a death dive that will burn up both devices in the atmosphere.

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  1. It broke my heart when they let Skylab fall back to earth instead of boosting it to a higher orbit. Saving it would have given the US a leg up on building the ISS. The same goes for all those shuttle booster tanks that burned up on re-entry. There was enough of them to build a whole other station and then some. Remember the enormous amount of energy it took to get the junk up there. A mobile scavanger could assemble all the junk in a parking orbit to get them out of the way. Then all that junk could be used to build structures in space. What a waste! But then, isn’t waste what the US is all about?

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