Making A Living From Space Junk

In an unusual act of generosity, the Soviet space program has been showering valuable metal scraps on the villages surrounding the Plesetsk Cosmodrome for more than forty years. Over the years, more than 1500 launches have been performed with a success rate of over 98%. The cosmodrome includes 9 launch pads for Soyuz, Molniya, Cosmos-3M, Cyclone-3, Rockot launch vehicles, as well as a variety of assembly/testing facilities, telemetry and tracking stations.


(From Plesetsk Cosmodrome layout)

Tons of "cosmic garbage" - mostly first stages jettisoned from Soyuz carrier rockets - have provided a vital economic boost to the impoverished villages surrounding the cosmodrome, including the main local town Mirny ("Peaceful"). As a suspected ICBM site, Plesetsk was a primary surveillance target on the flight plan for Gary Power's ill-fated reconnaissance flight on May 1, 1960.

Local adminstrators notify the citizenry several days prior to each launch; all "hunters, mushroom pickers, fishermen and reindeer breeders" are strongly advised to leave the dangerous area (yes, that's a quote). Within days, however, scores of local residents go looking for valuable spoils, including "little-damaged Soyuz first stages. Souyz carrier rockets are propelled by kerosene and oxygen, and their parts have a reputation for safety. Older Tsiklon and Rokot carriers propelled by poisonous heptyl leave scraps that people avoid for the time being. 'Self-cleaning', as locals put it, is just a matter of years for them, after which the metals are considered safe to extract."

Less damaged parts may be put to use in households; electric batteries are connected to lamps, sheets of stainless alloys are used to build basements, garages, and even long canoe-like boats.

Science fiction authors have long used the space junk idea. In his 1956 masterpiece The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester writes about the Sargasso Asteroid, an artificial planetoid built from space debris and abandoned space ships:

In rapid succession, Foyle was borne through an ancient Ganymede scow, a Lassell ice borer, a captain's barge, a Calisto heavy cruiser, a twenty-second-century fuel transport with glass tanks still filled with smoky rocket fuel...
(Read more about the Sargasso Asteroid)

In Footfall, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle make good use of scrap rockets right here on Earth. Ray Bradbury wrote a very touching short story about a father who cobbles together a "space ship" from junk to give his children the vacation of a lifetime.


("I'm Toydarian - Jedi mind tricks don't work on me... only money")

And of course, one of my favorite Star Wars characters, Watto, is also a space junk dealer, offering robots and assorted second-hand space craft parts.

Read the press release at RIA Novosti. You might also be interested in this SF in the News story - Terminator Tether - EDT Solution to Space Debris - regarding space junk that makes it all the way up to orbit.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 5/18/2005)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 1 )

Related News Stories - (" Space Tech ")

Space Construction Tools For Large Structures By OAC
'Mass-produced in the orbiting factories...'

Comercial Airlock 'Bishop' Now On ISS
'They put the bones and the glass can that had contained the soup into the double-doored partition or vestibule...' - John Jacob Astor IV, 1894.

Space Station Could Use Some Martian Sawgrass
'What better purifying machine is there than a plot of grass?' - George O. Smith, 1942.

Arches Of Chaos: Jovian Space Manifolds Create A Celestial Autobahn
'Commute ships roared on all sides, as Ed Morris made his way wearliy home to Earth at the end of a long hard day at the office.' Philip K. Dick,

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

Listen Up, Coppertop - Wearable Device Turns You Into A Battery
'It's our way or the highway.'

Solar Powered Robot Cleans Up Solar Panels For Free
'... with large padded feet, who were apparently polishing their way the whole length of Rama's six artificial suns.'

Spot Arm From Boston Dynamics Picks Up Like Heinlein's Hired Girl Robot
'Anything larger than a BB shot it picked up and placed in a tray on its upper surface...'

Electric Vehicle Prices Will Drop To $2,890
'the human seats took up two-thirds of the room in each'

TIGER Ultimate Mobility Vehicle From Hyundai
'He admired the fast-plodding, articulated legs...'

Drones Communicate With Each Other Using Quantum Encryption
'the curious absent look of a robot talking on the TBR circuits...'

Space Construction Tools For Large Structures By OAC
'Mass-produced in the orbiting factories...'

SpinCare Electrospins And Shoots Wound Dressing
'Over her lacerated right shoulder he sprayed art-derm...'

Tesla Model S And X Moves Toward KITT Knight Rider Styling
Now, that was a Pontiac Trans Am with some real style.

Sophia Robots By The Thousands
'There is a built-in microphone that hears everything you say, and an electric brain that selects a suitable answer.'

Scaly-Foot Snail Works With Iron
'Micro-Scale suit tiles fabricated by genetically engineered metal affinity bacteria...'

Updated Piaggio Gita Personal Robot Porter
'Carry his bag... and follow him faithfully...'

Las Vegas Tunnels To Have Autonomous Teslas
'...just a steady velvety whirr as the taxi sped along.'

TCL CSOT 17-Inch Printed OLED Scrolling Display
'..a wide sheet of clear material suddenly flared with light and swirling colour.'

Reachy Humanoid VR Teleoperation App
"I went to the control room where the three other men were manipulating their mechanical men...'

Unitree A1 Robot ala Black Mirror and Snow Crash
'The legs are long, curled way up to deliver power...'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.