What do you do if you see a spaceman? Fill it up man! What do you do if you fill all that space with junk? Clean it up man! But how and by whom?

Branson and Bezos seek to offer us the chance to visit space, travel in space and perhaps one day, live in space. Cox, the British physicist, appeared on television recently announcing with giddy excitement, although he gets giddy at a mere mention of a quark, that he seemed to think the reality of space travel and habitation might be within his own lifetime.

Lets take a leap forward to 2050 and imagine the first space tourists peeling overflowing Virgin X sick bags from their chins. As they wipe the last string of gravity-free floating vomit from their eyelashes they turn their attentions to the observation windows.

Eyes wide with anticipation, also from the sting of stomach acid burning their corneas, they gaze at the spectacular wonder of, well, it would have been Earth but unfortunately the mountain of space junk left from almost 100 years of neglectful space exploration has left the view rather masked by an asteroid field of human tech waste.

No five star review on Trip Adviser. Reminds me of Karl Pilkington’s words as he stood in the shadow of the great pyramids in awestruck wonder at the tornado of diapers whizzing around his head.

The question then remains, who is responsible for the cleaning operation for space and who will pay for it? The Highland Cleaning Company from Scottsdale would be delighted to bid on this contract as I work for the company and get very giddy at quarks, so would be keen to get my space gloves on and begin cleaning. The reality though is it will take a monumental effort and some outside the atmosphere box thinking to recover the waste and move it on to another location, no doubt to become another generations or even alien race’s problem in 100 years.

The European Space Agency proposal for waste collection ranges from a giant net, a robotic arm or some tentacles to capture the mechanical waste now orbiting our planet. All rather clumsy I feel. Typical Europeans.

The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency ups the physics ante with an electrodynamic tether whose current would slow down the speed of satellites making them fall closer to death in Earths atmosphere. This solves the problem for future aliens races on where to put the human ZX spectrum waste.

A quirky project named SpaDE, Space Debris Elimination, has a rather odd and whimsical nature to its science by essentially puffing large plumes of air from within the atmosphere to disturb the debris and slow its path causing it to burn up on its decent to Earth.

There are many other proposals out there and the information and accuracy of figures and stats changes month by month so then it begs the question: how much ‘stuff’ is actually out there?

How big is the problem and should we really be spending our tax dollars or private funds on such a clean up?

One million. There are approximately 1,000,000 pieces of loose fragments orbiting our planet that originated from rocket explosions, launch canisters, collisions and add in a splattering of dust and flakes of paint for extra measure.

There is natural tendency due to gravity for some of this space junk to find its way into Earth’s atmosphere and burn up harmlessly but the ratio of whats burning up to what we pump up there is not in our clean green space favor.

What can we do?

I would like to see an international school competition engage the minds of our youngsters to design and dream of possible answers. Not only will it highlight the need to complete such a task to our children but I think they might just invent a space dumpster truck that recycles the junk into rocket colored painted bicycles.

What have we learned today?

1. There are 1,000,000 pieces of junk floating around our planet.
2. The ESA are planning a robotic arm to pick it all up.
3. Karl Pilkington’s pyramid report still makes me laugh.

What ever we do, we need to do something. We have polluted our planet. We’ve changed our oceans, the air we breathe, tampered with our food sources, caused climate change and ravaged ecosystems. We have hurt Mother Earth and now we are slowly hurting her home, space. What ever we do, we should choose to do something, no matter how little, just try and do something.