ISS “Overflowing with trash”
By now, we all know that the Orbital Sciences resupply mission to the ISS exploded just seven seconds after launch on Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2014. Less than 48 hours later, I had the very great pleasure of seeing a couple of friends who work for the contractor who figures out what goes where inside the vehicle. It was very insightful.
We all tend to focus on just the contents of the launch vehicle, like the food and perishables. What we give less attention to is what the unmanned vehicle was supposed to bring down. Apparently, even BEFORE the launch, the ISS is overflowing with trash. It is, apparently, EVERYWHERE onboard the ISS, and tucked into just about every nook and cranny the astronauts can find. I had thought, erroneously, that some mechanism existed to take the trash outside, just like you and I do, and “tie it on” to the International Space Station. No such luck. The hazards of EVA (Extra Vehicular Activity) are so great, and the preparation for them so long, that conducting one is not justified for taking out the trash.
Astronauts, mission control, and mission planners had intended to use the Orbital Sciences vehicle to take down the copious amounts of trash aboard the ISS, where it would burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere upon re-entry. Now, mission planners not only have to figure out how to quickly resupply the ISS with the 5000 pounds of consumables, spare parts, and badly needed equipment lost in the explosion, they, perhaps faster than they can launch another vehicle, need to figure out just how, and when, to take out the trash.
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