Reduce, reuse, recycle or send it to space! On the face value of shuttling waste to space will definitely be a tidy response to the garbage menace. No more eyesore landfills. However, is the idea feasible? What about public health concerns? What kind of waste will be ferried to space? These are some of the pertinent questions that need answers before we shoot our waste into a foreign planet.
Feasibility Of Stellar Dustbin As A Waste Management Option
A stellar dustbin would be a brilliant idea which unfortunately, is too costly and weighty to implement. Guided by basic arithmetic calculations, I bet you won’t be interested in picking your bill for the stellar dustbin collection. Reporting for BBC Radio 4’s, Drs. Rutherford and Fry approximated that the world produces over 2 trillion pounds of trash annually.
According to Astrophysicist Lucas Jonne de Jong, the Proton-M (a heavy launch automobile designed by Russians) offers the lowest price ($7,710 per pound) to launch an object to the Geostationary Transfer Orbit. Shuttling garbage with Ariane V (rocket) that costs $200m to launch, translates into a hefty figure of $18,600 per pound of waste working with a payload of 15,400 pounds! What an astronomical figure to pay for a tidy universe.
Public Health Concerns
With increased interest in green energy, nuclear energy has attracted interest from various sectors. One major shortfall of nuclear energy is the safety concern and exposure to the radioactive materials. Waste management being key in preventing accidents from happening. NASA technical paper concludes that it will be impractical to send high nuclear waste to space. The cited reasons being environmental health impacts, economics factors and the high energy involved.
God forbid, an aborted space shuttle mission to dispose of high nuclear waste material will most likely result in a massive scale ionizing radiation which is considered carcinogenic (cancer-causing agent).
Lunar and solar orbit offer the most attractive destination for waste disposal guided by space shuttle safety options. However, solving the earth pollution crisis by shuttling garbage to space only serves to create another problem. Space pollution has been defined as debris that collects around the earth’s orbit. The thought of the dangers of collision between the debris and the artificial satellites in space should make you reconsider the thought of stellar dustbins at large.
With the advances in space science, misguided school of thoughts of the “big sky theory” (postulated that the debris will disintegrate and get burnt upon returning to the earth surface) have been dispelled by the “Kessler Syndrome”, which postulates a cascade of reactions leading to multiple collisions of subsequent debris particles. Numerous particles translate to damages of communication and weather satellites according to Donald Kessler. That begs the question – where is the wisdom in digging holes to fill in other holes? We need not export (temporarily) our global pollution menace!
The inhibitory cost as well as the technicalities involved in making a lunar or stellar dustbin a reality should persuade as to stick to the traditional waste disposal management. For the time being, it will be prudent to stick to recycling, reusing and reducing waste generation as options of waste management.