99% Invisible: 233- Space Trash, Space Treasure
October 30, 2016 12:16 PM - Subscribe

In the summer of 1961 the upper stage of the rocket carrying the Transit 4A satellite blew up about two hours after launch. It was the first known human-made object to unintentionally explode in space, and it created hundreds of fragments of useless space junk. Some of these pieces were pulled into the atmosphere where they burned up but around 200 of them are still up and orbiting today. At the time, people were not all that concerned about a few bits of metal floating around in the vastness of space. But like the ocean and other frontiers, space isn't endless as it first appears. Space Trash, Space Treasure
posted by eotvos (3 comments total)
An interesting program, as always.

I'm a fan of archeology and visiting ancient places and objects, but fetishizing the specific objects that happen to have gone into space seems worth considering carefully. Archeology on Earth is mostly valuable as documentation of things we wouldn't know about otherwise. If you've got blueprints and photos and meeting minutes and public talks documenting every object that's gone into space, spending considerable resources to keep the object itself seems like a choice that has very little to do with preserving information. Whether the ineffable authenticity of the object when encountered by a future space tourist is worth enough to justify keeping it is a hard question to answer. I'm happy to believe that the answer may be "yes" in every case mentioned here. But, let's not pretend we're pursuing science or history. (To be fair, it certainly makes more sense than preserving unexceptional 70 year old houses.)

Also, the phrase "using radio waves for global communication never really took off" really made it into the final edit? I know what the guy is trying to say. . . but this isn't live radio. He could have gone back and found words that aren't absurd.
posted by eotvos at 12:29 PM on October 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

posted by Alvy Ampersand at 1:50 PM on October 30, 2016

99% Invisible seems to have a philosophy of not being depressing. It's refreshing for me because I tend toward the dismal in my world view, and really resent false positivity a la TED Talks. 99PI finds the interesting/positive without being artificial or hiding the crap under a rug.

This episode is a great example - any other podcast on this topic would be really ominous and awful - SPACE IS RUINED - which is true, but they found a way to make this quirky and interesting and not fake but not grim.

It's nice.
posted by latkes at 3:30 PM on October 31, 2016 [4 favorites]

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