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
Explore further: SpaceX cargo capsule nears International Space Station