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Cleaning up space junk may erase history
January 4, 2007 9:56 AM   Subscribe

Dr Alice Gorman is on a mission (pdf) to preserve our heritage items in space. Plans to clean space junk orbiting Earth could result in the loss of irreplaceable historical artefacts, Gorman warns. Among the items that should recognised for their heritage value are the Vanguard One satellite, launched in 1958 and the oldest human object in space. Preserving items like these could provide evidence of a nation's presence in space or help reconstruct a history of space exploration.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese (6 comments total)

 
... and just when you thought the space programme had come up with the most egregious waste of public funds, they top themselves...
posted by docgonzo at 10:05 AM on January 4, 2007


Oh, come on. You don't need the actual satellite to "reconstruct" space exploration history. It started 50 years ago, and was sponsored by huge governments. There are written and duplicated-ad-nauseum plans and procedures for every minute aspect of everything put into orbit.

Should we try to retrieve Buzz Alrdin's golf ball, too.

Preserving items like these could provide evidence of a nation's presence in space...

Evidence? Is there some dispute about whether there is a presence in space that can't be settled by turning on DishNetwork or DirectTV?

Let these things burn up in the atmosphere and send them to Valhalla.
posted by Pastabagel at 10:18 AM on January 4, 2007


On the one hand, destroying items of historical importance like Vanguard is not really in the cards. The junk that's concerning is smaller and unimportant stuff, even stuff that's too small to track. Things like the digital camera lost on a recent spacewalk.

On the other, declaring items like Vanguard space landmarks, as it were, is a great idea in principle.

Should we try to retrieve Buzz Alrdin's golf ball, too.

Seeing as the moon has gravity, and not much weather or tectonics, it's probably where it landed.

Actually, in more than one SF novel, the Apollo 11 site is preserved for posterity. In Ben Bova's Millennium, it's been sprayed with plastic so that it can't be disturbed by later explorers, and you can see the original "one giant leap" footprints.

The existence of space junk is a real danger that wasn't widely recognized until fairly recently. People have been working on various solutions for a long time, though. Actual implementation seems as far off as ever.

It was thought once that the Shuttles would be flexible enough to, say, scoot over and grab stuff before coming back, but that was fantasy as the real program (and its costs) developed.
posted by dhartung at 10:28 AM on January 4, 2007


Pastabagel writes "There are written and duplicated-ad-nauseum plans and procedures for every minute aspect of everything put into orbit."

Yes and no, much of the Apollo program for example is in people's heads and some of those heads aren't talking anymore.
posted by Mitheral at 10:34 AM on January 4, 2007


I don't believe Buzz hit a golf ball in space, but perhaps you meant Alan Shepard (re: Apollo 14.)

Video reference
posted by fluffycreature at 10:40 AM on January 4, 2007


Perhaps we should save every turd every astronaut has ever produced. I mean, it might have some historical value some time in the future... Imagine it, zero gravity poop!
posted by Eekacat at 11:28 AM on January 4, 2007


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