New Career Field
Friday, April 21, 2006

Total randomness here. My mind was out there floating the other day, and I had a vision.

The job I would like to have is Interplanetary Garbage Retrieval Specialist. Retrieval, not collecting, because, like, the garbage isn't collected in space, it's just floating out there. You have to go out and get it. Because, if you hit it, you're toast. Or could be, if your hull isn't strong enough. Think of the service to humanity. Sort of like a sci-fi "Catcher in the Rye".

So, the Interplanetary Debris Collection Force would be established to remove this very real hazard from interplanetary space lanes.This hazard is a little intimidating, and kinda real. Even now, in 2006, how much is out there? How much debris is out there from every Apollo moon mission? Out there waiting. Waiting to whack you when you least expect it as you're trying to sneak by on your way to Sedna.

What brought this to mind was the scene in "Bushwacked" where the Alliance ship is blowing up the settlers' vessel. I remember thinking, even the first time I saw it, "OH MY FUCKING GOD, what they hell are they doing?" All those pieces floating in space, some only the size of a dinner plate, ready to smack some unsuspecting space traveler, doing possible mortal damage. There is no decomposition in space. Nothing is reabsorbed. I've always been sensitive to the whole "Reduce. Reuse. Recycle." paradigm, and here's the Alliance, just blowing this contained, reusable item into itty bitty bits. A nice, large chunk they could have towed somewhere and repurposed. Basically atomized, bit-mapped, pulverized. The hazard multiplied exponentially. Even Mal wanted them to blow it up. So it's not an evil Alliance mind-set. It's a human mind-set.

Perhaps it's lack of sleep, perhaps I'm channeling my favorite scene from the Wim Wenders film "Until the End of the World", where the heroine finally finds her calling working on a satellite space station monitoring the Earth surface for eco-crimes. I want to do that. Really. Wouldn't that be fun? Making a difference? Saving the world from the humans that live on it?

So. Specifics. You're in command of a short-range vessel, basically floating, tracking debris. The most important effort-saving initiative (read: money; read: fuel; read: time) would be to capture as many "elements" ("targets"?, the nomenclature itself is intriguing) using the least amount of fuel. Think of how fun it would be to set up the computer program to computate and navigate the space in between these "elements" using the least amount of resources. Other specifics. Storage. Reclamation. Arms? Armatures? The best, oh my goodness, the best, would be to "reclaim" the "elements" using motion only, much like the "barn swallow" maneuver from "Serenity". You track, you match speed, you align, and then just scoop them into your storage bay. No muss, no fuss. No unseemly use of fuel for redirection. No banging of tins. No jarring of seams. Well, there was jarring of seams in "Serenity", but I think they were in a rush.

It would make me proud to say that my job involved making the 'verse safer for interplantary travel. And think what the crew could earn on eBay, selling what we find out there. Incomprehensible amounts of money, to my way of thinking. But perhaps the whole enterprise could be not-for-profit. We sell what we find, we pay our livings, we pay our expenses. We keep flying. We keep making space safe for travelers.

Man, I sure am going off here, huh?

Gee. There's no need to take our existing paradigm into space. Even in a "futuristic tale" such as FF, the same holds true, even though the science doesn't support the "wasteful enterprise". Just because we don't live there, don't mean we can dump junk there. Traveling around in times to come may very well depend on how well we manage our space trash now.

I know there's enough out there even now to keep an Interplanetary Debris Collection Force busy for possibly a lifetime.

Huh. My little flight of fancy turned into this totally boring morality tale about recycling. My apologies. I usually keep my escapist fantasies as just that. Sorry about the reality jolt.

Well, the bottom line is I still think it would be a kick-ass job. But only if there was a gravity drive. I'm not keen on losing all that muscle mass.

Keep flying. Don't hit anything on the way, OK?


Saturday, April 22, 2006 4:41 AM


Been done.

You'll want to check out an animé series called "Planetes" (Vol 1 DVD at: http://tinyurl.com/n5dcd), about a team of interplanetary junk collectors. Mostly in-system IIRC (I haven't actually seen it, but I'm up on all the animé mags), as there's no interstellar travel (as with Firefly, in fact).

Also, there are dolphins in space suits. Can't go wrong with space-suited dolphins.


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