Original URL: http://www.theregister.com/2007/07/24/space_fridge_dump_shocker/
By Lewis Page
Published Tuesday 24th July 2007 13:47 GMT
Litterbug astronauts have hurled almost a ton of junk off the International Space Station, including an old refrigeration system weighing 1400lb, risking a fiery meteoric death for innocent Earth-dwellers. In sharp contrast to green consumers worldwide, NASA has brazenly revealed that the fly tipping spacemen hadn't even used the fridge before throwing it overboard. Outrage is expected from the sandal-wearing, lentil-friendly elements of society.
In fact, the orgy of ecologically-unsound orbital refuse disposal was due to the problems which have beset the space shuttle fleet in recent years. With a sharply reduced number of shuttle flights to the station, opportunities to ship rubbish back to Earth have been limited.
The disused space fridge jettisoned yesterday - in reality an ammonia tank assembly called the Early Ammonia System, or EAS - was a coolant backup provided only for use in emergencies during the building of the space station. Now that the platform's main cooling system is in place, the EAS was scheduled to be removed so that the truss it was mounted on could be shifted to its final planned position.
NASA had planned to bring the EAS down in the shuttle, but there wasn't room. Accordingly, astronaut Clay Anderson threw it away from the tip of the station's manipulator arm yesterday. He also ditched a 212lb camera mounting, similarly surplus to requirements.
Both pieces of space jetsam will be tracked from Earth, allowing warnings to be given should their re-entry threaten anyone. The camera mount is expected to burn up completely, but pieces of the EAS as large as 39lb might make it down to strike the surface when it de-orbits in a year or so's time. NASA thinks the meteoric fridge-frag volley will land in the ocean, but says there is a 1 in 5000 chance that people could be injured or killed.
Full details from NASA, including video of the astronaut dump incident, can be seen here (http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/main/index.html