Space junk is a major problem for Mother Earth and our outer space exploration missions, with about 9,000 tons and millions of pieces of space junk orbiting and cloaking our planet in cosmic debris. All this floating junk, whizzing by at up to 40,000 km/h, is dangerous and can impact operating satellites, space stations, and spaceships.

Just ask Sandra Bullock who starred in 2013’s critically acclaimed film Gravity, where in the exhilarating opening scene, space shuttle Explorer is destroyed from a debris chain reaction (due to Russian’s striking one of their satellites) leaving Dr. Ryan Stone (Bullock) and astronaut Matt Kowalsky (George Clooney) dramatically marooned in outer space just after Kowalsky wryly declares “half of north america just lost their Facebook.”

So what are we to do about all this junk? In 2017 CNN reported on the Japanese Space Sweepers inventing a method using kamikaze satellites with magnetic arms to tether the junk and thrust Earthward, ultimately burning up in the atmosphere. In 2012, the IMAX movie Space Junk 3D explored ideas to solve the problem.

Daan Roosegaarde Space Waste Dezeen

Space Waste Orbiting Earth

Now Daan Roosegaarde, the Dutch designer known for his pollution tracking Smog Free Tower project, has proposed the Sky Waste Lab. As Dezeen reports:

“Roosegaarde’s Space Waste Lab will use live installations and collaborative workshops to explore the various ways that floating space junk could be upcycled into useful and sustainable products.”

Phase one of the Space Waste Lab will launch next month as large-scale light installations in the Netherlands and workshops investigating how space junk might be upcycled into raw materials for 3D-printed Martian houses or energy sources. Another Sky Waste Lab solution might be the creation of “artificial shooting stars,” where the space junk is jettisoned towards Earth to burn up in the atmosphere to create dazzling fireworks-like displays at events like the Olympics. Maybe Roosegaade was inspired by Gravity’s ending?