Looking skyward as the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 strewed burning pieces of metal and plastic across the upper atmosphere, young pieces of garbage around the world were inspired to dream big; that one day they too might be projected into space via enormous carbon outlay to then rain down in gorgeous garbagey greatness from on high.
From fresh-faced soda cans, discarded in ditches at the sides of the world’s highways, to broken down children’s ride ’em toys in millions of backyards, would-be astrojunk watched with pride as the disused station broke into thousands of individual flaming pieces of flying detritus, silently promising themselves that one day they too would sully the sky for all to see.
“He is just obsessed,” says a rusty wheel rim, mid-way up a large pile of old parts in a suburban car wreckers, referring to the youngest of her five bolts. “Wants me to send him to space camp next year, but we don’t have the money. I told him to keep his threads sharp and you never know. He’s metric after all, and I hear the European Space Station is looking for M10’s, so…a little bolt can dream can’t he?”
Alone in the vacuum of space, the space station – whose name loosely translates as ‘Where’s the recycling bin?’- has spent the last five years preparing for its big moment by drifting, not having a propulsion system, and being junk.
As the atmosphere of earth grabbed at the prototype lab’s slowly spinning solar arrays, hastening the craft’s final moments, a final, crackly message made it out from the soon-to-be-famous-litter:
“That’s,” the flying trash said, as its frame began to shake in the rarified air. “One small step for discarded junk.” A pause then, as the mounting forces of re-entry broke off an array in a flash of dramatic sparks, but the pile of incinerating debris bravely continued.
“One giant leap for garbage kind.”