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Space debris

Living in space

Astronauts produce waste materials – used materials for their work, food packaging, faeces, urine. Everything that is in the spacecraft has to be carried up there. Most of it comes back down again. The only other option is to dump it into space.

General waste, like food packaging, is compressed and brought back down. The same happens with faeces, though that may need to be dried first. One advantage of that is that dried faeces take up less space, and another is that the water can be re-used in the spacecraft.

In the past, urine has been ejected into space. It’s less of a problem than solid waste, because it evaporates. But it’s a waste of precious water. On the International Space Station, urine is recycled.

bin bags in a row

 Dumping in space

People living close to landfill sites complain about the smell.

Environmentalists complain about dumping in the seas as it pollutes the oceans which harbour important food sources for us.

Should we send our rubbish into space? Use ethical principles to justify your answer.

Next: Extra-terrestrial intelligence


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The International Space Station – a sort of caravan in space
Click to enlarge