Here’s How You Take Out the Trash in Space

Here’s How You Take Out the Trash in Space

I’ve just moved into a new place that’s on the fifth floor of a pretty old building. Where my last apartment came with a garbage chute, this one doesn’t and instead requires a trip down four flights and back up every time I take the trash out. It’s a faff. But while my new leg workout might grate from time to time, it’s nothing compared to the palaver of taking the garbage out in space.

In a video shared on Twitter, astronaut Woody Hoburg talks through the laborious task of taking out the trash in space, which involves a robotic arm and a two-year descent back to Earth. First brought to our attention by, the video shows Hoburg jettisoning a chunk of flight support equipment. The site reports:

“NASA astronaut Woody Hoburg shows off a cylindrical piece of space debris safely drifting toward Earth after being jettisoned by a Canadian robotic arm. The debris’ path should have it fall into Earth’s atmosphere in the summer of 2025, with no risk to the International Space Station.”

According to, the equipment jettisoned from the ISS was leftover kit following a project to install new solar arrays on the station. To transport the solar arrays into space, they were shipped into orbit on mounts that held them in place and secured them during the flight.

Instead of paying thousands to fly these mounts back to Earth, they were simply thrown from the ISS by a robotic arm and left to begin a long, slow descent into the Earth’s atmosphere. Once there, the parts will burn up on re-entry.

The space station carries out tasks like this every now and then, usually before it undergoes a “reboost” procedure. According to, the ISS must be raised back into orbit from time to time by attached spacecraft in order to prevent it from falling into Earth’s atmosphere. As such, tasks like this help reduce the onboard mass, making the procedure a little easier.

Taking out the garbage isn’t the only thing that’s more complicated in space, the orbital base requires all kinds of specially designed appliances to work in zero gravity, including a special toilet.

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