Beware of flying NASA trash

NASA launched equipment into Earth's atmosphere on Monday because it didn't have room to bring it back on a space shuttle. You'll find me hiding under a rock.

On Monday, according to a Reuters story, NASA launched some trash into space. No, don't read that sentence again.

space station
International Space Station commander Fyodor Yurchikhin (left) and astronaut Clayton Anderson work with an Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) earlier this month. NASA

The trouble, the story says, was that there isn't enough room on the space shuttle to bring back a 1,400-pound machine containing ammonia and a piece of obsolete video equipment weighing 212 pounds. Although flinging the waste into the galaxy was not exactly NASA's first choice, the organization felt it had no other option.

So International Space Station flight engineer Clay Anderson launched the items from the space station, with radars attached to the rubble to monitor its pattern of movement, according to Reuters.

However, there are risks associated with this procedure. The debris will float in space for 300 days before combusting in Earth's atmosphere, the story says, posing the risk of leaving the waste unattended for 10 months with the possibility of the trash flying into the orbit of a future space shuttle. And if the wreckage does not fully combust in the atmosphere, it has a 1 in 5,000 chance of landing in a populated area, rather than the ocean as intended.

To NASA's credit, it will issue warnings if the debris becomes a serious threat to security. Meanwhile, I'll be hiding under a rock.

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    Sabena Suri
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