The occupants of the ISS recently opened the hatch and disposed of several hundred pounds of junk-including a used oxygen generators, and some garbage. NASA says that most of this stuff will burn up upon re-entry-but some of the heavier items will make it to the ground. suppose somebody gets killed by a piece of debris? Who insures the ISS? And does this action constitute “willful negligence”?
My worry would be more about damage to the ISS itself – just because you throw things out your window doesn’t mean they’ll end up on the ground. The stuff has the same velocity you do, after all, and if you manually heave it out the door that tiny impetus won’t knock it out of orbit. Its most likely effect is to simply perturb the orbit slightly, so it ends up going above and below you, and might hit you, eventually (See a mechanics textbook. Or A Celestial Dynamics text. Or read Arthur C. Clarke’s story “Jupiter Five”)
Evidently NASA has been thinking about this, too:
The hope is apparently that a lot of stuff, being lighter, will be retarded by the interaction with the very thin atmosphere faster than the ISS and will decay out of orbit a lot faster. At least, if the stuff hits you, it’s likely to be going pretty close to the same speed and direction, and bbe less likely to hurt you. It still seejms a pretty stiupid idea to me. There’s already plenty of potentially harmful space junk in orbit. We ought to be eliminating it, not adding to it.
Like in the National Parks – pack it in, pack it out.
My understanding was that the articles tossed “overboard” were expected to decay within a few months at most. Also, they “raised” the space station to a higher orbit after the jettisoning of the debris, to help avoid the possibility of an intersection of orbits. :eek: