A certain daughter of mine is turning four today, and as she has talked a fair bit over the last year about eventually flying a rocket ship into space (possibly while also riding on a unicorn) I thought we’d talk about some news from way up there today.

Space used to seem so cold and empty, but we’ve got a lot of stuff up there now. Space stations, satellites, more satellites… and tens of thousands of pieces of space debris.

And the larger pieces stick around for a while, unfortunately.

We wouldn’t want them to potentially hit the space station or key communications satellites.

The European Space Agency is planning a mission in 2025 to do some orbital cleanup, but catching space debris is trickier than just getting out a broom and dustpan during a spacewalk.

The ESA plans to use robotic arms to collect items. In the past we’ve tried nets, as well.

Another idea is to help them clean up themselves, either by putting little thrusters on them to launch them back into the atmosphere or high-tech dragsails to slow them until they head back down.

The good news is that smaller items will do this on their own, like the time an astronaut accidentally dropped a spatula while doing a repair experiment in space.

We learned that kitchen utensils do not hang around long in earth orbit.

In Huddleston, Virginia, nothing but blue skies for Beth Bays of Buckscrape Farms – she’s known for putting together hay sculptures this time of year. In the past she’s done giant teddy bears, Wizard of Oz characters, even the Bumble from TV’s “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.”

This year? A certain red-headed country music legend in giant hay sculpture form. He’s known as… “Will-hay Nelson.”

ESA commissions world’s first space debris removal (European Space Agency)

To Clean Up Space Junk, Some People Grabbed a Net and Harpoon (Wired)

‘Will-Hay Nelson’ creation at Virginia farm going viral (WSET)

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Photo by Bob MacInnes via Flickr/Creative Commons