Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Europe Constructs A Space Dump Truck

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(Image: 20 Ton ATV developed by Europe, Credit: ESA via BBC)

With America and Asia taking most of the space glory, Europe has decided to make its mark in the industry by constructing a large "space truck."

Although designed for transporting food, water, oxygen and technology to the International Space Station (aka ISS), this space craft can will also give the ISS a rocket boost--not to mention serve as a solar dump truck.

(BBC News) New oxygen supplies brought up by the ATV are simply vented into the station; water is carried out in bags; fuel is piped across to Zvezda.

The ATV will stay at the station for six months. At intervals of 10 to 45 days, the vehicle's thrusters will be used to boost the platform's altitude.

Over time, the ISS crew will use the vehicle as a refuse skip, filling the cargo section with all their waste. After undocking, the ATV will destroy all this material - and itself - in a controlled re-entry over the Pacific Ocean.

Although we often dream of space stations "reusing, reducing and recycling" 100 percent of everything they bring on board, the reality is that astronauts are going to need the option of throwing some items away.

Since transporting garbage back to Earth is expensive (and releasing it into space can cause future problems), storing space junk inside this ATV may help decrease the future supply of orbital garbage that dangerously circles our planet.

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You can either visit the stars or watch them from afar.

But if you choose the former, you'll definitely get a better view.

~Darnell Clayton, 2007

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