Tuesday, July 24, 2007

NASA to Dump Junk in Space

It's not the politically correct way to dispose of trash, but NASA says it has no better option than to dump from the International Space Station a refrigerator-sized container holding ammonia and a 200-pound camera stand.

Station flight engineer Clay Anderson will do the deed during a spacewalk planned for Monday.

"We agonized over this for a very long time before we came to this decision," space station deputy manager Kirk Shireman said in an interview. "It sounds bad."

NASA is not as concerned about its image as it is about the potential damage the ammonia container, which weighs more than 1,400 pounds, could do after it falls from orbit in about a year. Pieces as big as 39 pounds could survive re-entry and crash on Earth.

The U.S. space agency calculates the odds of the debris hurting or killing a person at one in 5000. That sounds high, but consider that engines flown on the country's heavy-lift Delta and Atlas rockets have a one in 1,000 chance of affecting a person. Continue reading>>