Astronaut Tosses Junk Out to Space

By: CBS News
By: CBS News

NASA astronaut Clayton Anderson tossed two large pieces of junk from an international space station into space on Monday.

Anderson first threw a 200-pound (90-kilogram) camera mounting and then hurled a 1400 pound (635-kilogram) refrigerator-size ammonia tank away from the station.

Clayton is a keen sportsman and enjoys officiating basketball games back on Earth. Using baseball terminology, Mission Control declared the tank throw great and "right down the middle."

"Well, in that case, give Brad Lidge and Roy Oswalt a call and tell them I just hummed a 17,500-mph fastball," Anderson said, referring to famous Astro baseball players from his hometown Houston.

Anderson said the tank looked "majestic" as it tumbled away, and the 4-foot (1.22-metre) camera mounting resembled "a huge star."

"I'll be sending my bill in the mail for trash disposal," he joked with Mission Control.

For each celestial toss, Anderson leaned back on the end of the space station's 58-foot (17.7-metre) robot arm and rocked forward and shouted "Jettison!" as he threw the outdated equipment into space.

NASA normally tries to avoid adding to the orbiting junkyard, but officials felt they had no choice in this case. A looming 2010 deadline will end all shuttle flights and NASA does not have room on its remaining missions to return the tank to Earth.

The ammonia tank was launched in 2001 to provide a spare coolant in case of a leak at the orbiting complex, but the tank was never needed and has now exceeded its life expectancy.

Flight controllers expect the ammonia tank to orbit for 10 or 11 months before re-entering the atmosphere and burning up. During this period, officials say there should be no danger of a collision between the free-floating tank and station.

However small chunks are likely to fall through the atmosphere next year but NASA officials hope these pieces will hit the ocean.

The camera mounting should burn up entirely and faster because it is much smaller in size than the tank.

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