When we think of space, we think of the great emptiness and black unknown. Everything floats quietly and silently. Think again! Since the space age started in the 1950s,
In 1965, the US launched Gemini into space. Astronaut Jim Lovell lost his toothbrush during the 14-day flight. The December flight was his first space adventure and was a test study to see what happens to the human body in space. We wonder if the final report included clumsiness as a side effect!
During the Gemini 4 mission in June 1965, astronaut Edward White became the first American to walk in space. He reportedly had to be ordered back into the spacecraft by his NASA commanders because he found the experience so exhilarating. During his adventure, however, a spare glove from the open hatch floated away and became one of the first things that humans sent to space.
8. Tool Bag
In November 2008, astronaut Heide Stefanyshyn-Piper was doing a spacewalk to repair a jammed gear on a solar panel. She lost her grip on a tool bag and it drifted into space. Too bad space tools are so pricey; the estimated value of the grease guns, scraper tool and space debris garbage containers was over $100,000!
7. Explosion Garbage
Russian-made Briz-M (translates to breeze) was a rocket stranded in orbit. It accidentally exploded in late 2012 after being stranded with half-empty fuel tanks. The explosion caused at least 1,000 trackable pieces of space debris, which are gradually getting pulled towards Earth and burning upon integrating our atmosphere.
6. Chinese Missile Target
Fengyun was a Chinese weather satellite launched in 1999 which was deemed no longer necessary. Rather than leaving it as is, flying in space, the Chinese government found a new use for it: target practice for a new anti-satellite device test. From Earth, China sent out a ballistic missile to destroy Fengyun in January of 2007. This caused over 950 large pieces of shattered satellite to float into the Earth’s orbit and around operating satellites. NASA estimates that the fragmentation of Fengyun 1-C created over 35,000 pieces of debris larger than 1cm.
After the 2003 Columbia disaster, astronaut Piers Sellers went to test new safety techniques. He was spreading heat-shield repair materials with a spatula during a spacewalking outing when he dropped it and lost it in space. Some experts estimate the value of the spatula at over $2000. This is definitely one of the wackiest things humans sent to space.
4. Telecom Satellite Debris
On February 10, 2009, satellites Iridium 33 and Kosmos-2251 collided in low Earth orbit. The impact is estimated to have been around 42,120 km/h. The crash occurred at an altitude of 789 km over Siberia. Kosmos was owned by the Russian Space Forces and Iridium belonged to Iridium Communications Inc. Both pieces of equipment were destroyed in the collision. Iridium was operational at the time of the collision, but Kosmos had been out of service since 1995.
3. Tank Full Of Ammonia
NASA sent out a tank full of ammonia overboard in 2007, as it became obsolete after an upgrade in the space station’s air conditioning system. The tank, weighing over 630 kg, was too large and heavy to be brought back to Earth and was purposefully tossed into space. NASA thinks it hit the atmosphere a year later and burned over the South Pacific Ocean.
2. Human Ashes
Of all things humans sent to space, this one is the most sad. In 1992, space shuttle Columbia delivered the ashes of Gene Roddenberry. The ashes were held in a capsule the size of a lipstick. The rest of his ashes, along with those of his wife Majel, are expected to be shipped to space with fan letters later this year. By now, the first container has probably been pulled into the Earth’s atmosphere, but Trekkies can look to the sky and know that Roddenberry’s ashes will remain with the stars.
1. Vintage US Satellite
Vanguard 1 is the biggest and oldest piece of space debris, having been flying around the Earth since 1958. Despite its low orbit, the satellite has been circling around our planet without getting drawn into our atmosphere. The US satellite was made nonoperational in 1964 and has been the grandfather of space debris since then. It tops our list of things humans sent to space that are still floating out there.