Well, shit, where else is there to go? The mountains and the Arctic are all becoming tourist traps. Hey, what about the bottom of the ocean! As long as people can't breathe water, they won't be setting up Deadwood Under The Sea. Right?
Oh, but they can. While looking for fish in the deep sea off the coast of California, research teams turned up some surprises such as a ton of fishing gear, beer bottles and a literal kitchen sink, delighting all the headline writers out there.
That trash is only at a depth of 1,200 feet, though. Really deep places should be safe, like, say, the watery grave of the Titanic. That's over two miles down, where over 1,000 dead lie in the eternal stillness of Davy Jones' locker, undisturbed till the end of time. Except by subs and camera crews and James Cameron.
Ever since we discovered the wreck of the Titanic, we've wanted to take pictures and video of it. With a constant two-knot current, it's pretty hard to set up lights and cameras, so filmmakers send down sandbags and lead weights to hold all the equipment still. When they're finished shooting, they haul the lights and cameras up, but not the sandbags and weights because fuck that, they're heavy.
There's also beer bottles and soda cans which apparently must have teleported there because no film crew will admit to having tossed anything overboard in that area.
But whatever. So we're kind of desecrating a historical site or putting ugly garbage on the bottom of the ocean. It's not super dangerous, and undersea life is already building ecosystems on some of it.
They're pretty creative critters.
What they probably can't work with, though, is nuclear waste. There are at least five known nuclear sub wrecks on the bottom of the ocean. At least one of them has had its nuclear warheads break open, spewing plutonium right into Neptune's bedroom. And nothing lasts forever, so who knows when the rest of that crap is going to leak out.
So yeah, we still can't even get a human to most of those places, but we've already ruined them.
Well, if we're ruining every spot we can think of on Earth, space is pretty much the only unspoiled place left, right?
As you've probably guessed, it isn't. Sure, space tourism may just be in its infancy, but we've actually sent a lot more space tourists up than you might have thought. At least seven people have gone up as bona-fide money-paying customers -- one of them twice.
This rich bastard. You can do anything you want if you invented Microsoft Word and Excel, I guess.
Even 'N Sync's Lance Bass almost went up but lost his funding at the last minute, I'm guessing because his sponsors were actually making a hyperbolic joke about "launching all boy bands into orbit" and backed out when they realized they were being taken literally.
There aren't enough tourists going up to ruin everything, yet -- but that's OK because corporations and space agencies are way ahead of them. In the years since Sputnik went up, we've been putting more and more crap in orbit -- discarded rocket stages, defunct satellites, loose parts -- and not bringing any of it back, because, how would you do that, seriously. It takes like two hours to pick something up with the space shuttle arm.
People have been warning for years that sooner or later, crap is going to start running into other crap, and it happened in 2009 when a phone company satellite crashed into an old Russian communications satellite. It's worth noting here that space is big. But not big enough to keep all the trash we've been shooting up there without it turning into junk bumper cars.
And it's not just NASA and Soviet stuff up there -- your Sirius radio, your satellite TV, weather forecasts and any kind of GPS device, all depend on satellites. It's getting damn crowded. And it's easy to forget that China's getting into space now, a country notorious for giving less than half a shit about the environment, which explains why 31 percent of tracked space trash already belongs to them.
And unlike hazards in the mountains or ocean or at the South Pole, you can't keep safe just by staying away from space. Due to, you know, physics, space junk can come down and hit anybody. Anywhere. Like this rocket casing:
Or this thing:
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