Researchers at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida are evaluating small tiles made of space trash to find out whether they can be stored aboard spacecraft safely or even used for radiation shielding during a deep-space mission.
The circular tiles were produced at the agency’s Ames Research Center in California, where engineers developed and built a compactor that melts trash but doesn’t incinerate it. After compaction, a day’s worth of garbage becomes an 8-inch diameter tile about half an inch thick. Plastic water bottles, clothing scraps, duct tape and foil drink pouches are left patched together in a single tile along with an amalgam of other materials left from a day of living in space.
“One of the ways these discs could be re-used is as a radiation shield because there’s a lot of plastic packaging in the trash. The idea is to make these tiles, and, if the plastic components are high enough, they could actually shield radiation,” said Mary Hummerick, a Qinetiq North America microbiologist at Kennedy working on the project.
Might as well make something useful out of the trash on a long trip. BFI won’t make that kind of a pickup.