Space Junk – ISS incident recalls awesome Planetes

June 28, 2011

I watched an anime several years ago called Planetes, that opened my eyes to the very real problem of space junk. Periodically since then I have been reminded of Planetes, such as today, when I read the following headline:

6 space station astronauts take shelter in lifeboats from dangerous orbiting junk

According to the article, “The unidentified object was predicted to pass within 800 or so feet.” Since objects orbit the Earth at incredible speeds (roughly 10 kilometers or 6 miles per SECOND), even small fragments can cause serious problems.

All of this was a foreseen problem, and a very good discussion of the problem is the anime Planetes, which aired in 2003-4. I have a copy of the US release with extra interviews with NASA scientists who specialize in the problem of tracking space debris, and a UK re-release just came out in a budget format this week. It is well worth watching. Here is the promo:

In case it isn’t clear, the story revolves around people who work in space, clearing up the junk, and thus making it safe for others. All the while they are dismissed as trash handlers. It is unusual to get a show that makes use of adults, this point was just made in a comment by Son Gohan about Tiger & Bunny. With Planetes, not only do we get to see adults in action, and insight into a growing problem, but we also get a very good near-future Science Fiction series. I really recommend it.

The OP integrates imagery from humanity’s quest to explore space with character introductions. The song isn’t the greatest, but it fits the energy and sense of exploration quite well.

So remember, watch Planetes, and let’s keep space clean for the next generation!

6 Responses to “Space Junk – ISS incident recalls awesome Planetes”

  1. bonehimer Says:

    I remember watching a bit about the space debris issue in the discovery channels years prior to watching Planetes, so it was pretty neat to watch Planetes knowing they were talking about a real issue. Patlabor is another show that focuses on adults in a not so far future, granted its a show from the 80s so their perception of the future is off, and it deals with Japan and their very real issue of rising ocean tides. It’s a mecha show but its also a heavy character driven show.

    • Joojoobees Says:

      I watched the two movies but not the TV series. The second movie in particular was really good. The first movie was okay, more like a standard buddy-cop movie, but with robots. I liked the vision they had of the future. The Patlabors themselves were pretty believable. It gave it a very credible vibe, since there wasn’t a lot of far out technology.

      BTW, another near-future anime movie featuring adults was Paprika (albeit, with less believable, though interesting, technology).

  2. fuse01 Says:

    Planetes is one of my favorites. Its kind of rare to see a well done anime about adults.

    I used to watch Patlabor on VHS tapes. Every time my dog licks a plate it reminds me of the food poisoning episode.

    • Joojoobees Says:

      It is rare, which is a real shame. I honestly think it is foolishness on the part of the companies, because they are perpetuating a cycle of losing audience when they get older.

      BTW, one of my all time faves for older characters is Salaryman Kintaro.

  3. Tsuki Says:

    Ah Planetes. It’s main cast was characterized amazingly well, and Planetes ended up being one of the most compelling human dramas I’ve seen in a while.

    Not to mention, the series certainly was well researched. I remember really appreciating the tiny little details and such when it came to the setting and overall worldbuilding.

    • Joojoobees Says:

      Another thing (or you could include this in world-building) is how well thought out the society on the station was. They had all levels of society, they had various types of work and life spaces, they had a variety of economic activities (from half-section, to human transportation, to tourism. It was a very interesting take on space-faring social organization.

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