In space, trash can't go to the curb

March 16, 2007

Taking out the trash is no simple chore on the International Space Station, where some junk is carefully hurled into the Earth's atmosphere to burn.

"It's really only a measure of last resort," Nicholas Johnson, head of NASA's orbital debris program told USA Today of the space trash technique. "We don't want to create debris even if it's short-lived, unless it's overwhelmingly necessary."

USA Today reported that in April, astronaut James Reilly is scheduled to toss five sun protection covers into space during a spacewalk. Later this year, astronaut Clay Anderson is scheduled to throw a storage tank into space, the newspaper reported.

Such disposal takes careful planning and good aim so the trash doesn't hit the space station or a visiting shuttle. The debris should burn within weeks or months.

Tossing trash into space is "a lot of fun," astronaut William McArthur told USA Today. He threw out an electric-charge sensor in 2005.

"Maybe it's like the first time you ever parallel-park a car," he told the newspaper. "Until you've actually done a physical task, there are doubts."

Copyright 2007 by United Press International

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