There are definitely romantic aspects to space exploration, with moments like Neil Armstrong’s first walk on the moon seared into the public consciousness.
But one oft-neglected part of space travel is in the inevitable accumulation of garbage. Abandoned satellites, launch vehicle rockets, debris, heat shields, and dozens of other types of discarded space junk remain in orbit. NASA estimated that 6000 tons of waste are tumbling around Earth’s low orbit. Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin left trash on the moon. All told, there are about 400,000 pounds of man-made waste on the lunar surface.
With space garbage such a problem, it makes sense that someone might want to explore opportunities as a space garbageman. That’s where Steve Wozniak comes in.
The co-founder of Apple recently launched Privateer, a service intended to both monitor and discard objects found in space. News of the venture leaked out back in August; this week, Wozniak made a tweet mentioning a new space start-up that will be unlike any of the others currently making headlines, like SpaceX or Blue Origin.
Wozniak hasn’t made any further details available, but such a project would certainly fill a need. Space junk isn’t merely a nuisance: It can be dangerous. Explorers might be struck by a piece of debris moving seven times faster than the speed of a bullet. NASA has even reported that a single paint fleck has been enough to damage a shuttle window.
The logistics of collecting space junk will inevitably cost a lot of money, and it’s unclear who Wozniak plans to invoice for the work. But as privatized space exploration ramps up, the need for someone to clean up after them can only increase.
More details about Privateer are expected at the AMOS Tech 2021 conference in Maui, Hawaii, running throughout the week.