The future of recycling looks to outer space

Remember that recent, defunct NASA weather satellite the size of a school bus that plunged into the southern Pacific Ocean? Well, the Bellingham Herald reports that there are many more where that came from.

According to the news source, NASA tracks 19,000 space junk objects that are considered to be "of significant size." With the addition of smaller pieces, the number of scraps flying around the planet is estimated to be around 370,000. That's a lot of trash - some of which could be potentially dangerous if they come back down to earth.

Many years ago people were considering getting rid of trash by loading it into a rocket and shooting it into space, however it's now obvious that doing so would likely cause more problems than it would solve.

Luckily, the Orbital Debris Program Office at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, has begun to realize that recycling needs to be done not only on earth, but in our atmosphere as well. Instead of just tracking the junk, there have been a number of ideas developed to bring it back safely to earth for recycling or simply get rid of it.

For example, one idea is to build a "cosmic harpoon" which would latch on to a piece of trash and bring it lower into the atmosphere so it burns up. Another idea involves a giant magnet, while yet another includes an umbrella-shaped craft that would scoop up smaller debris.

This is good news for people who don't want to have to worry about falling chunks of metal. Not only will recycling this space junk make us safer, but it will allow us to launch more satellites in the future without having to be wary of outerspace collisions. Since most of the junk orbiting the earth travels at around 22,000 mph, removing it is the only way to avoid objects slamming into each other.

While none of these space recycling programs have been implemented, they are being developed, so it's likely you'll start to see space-related recycling innovations in the future.