Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Space junk: collection is easy, direction is hard to find.

My Twitter friend Stuart Palmer alerted me to this space junk song I didn't know about! It's a good one too. The Bats are a New Zealand band who have been around since the 1980s.




Here are the lyrics, which I have transcribed myself for your pleasure. Apologies if I have got some of them wrong. The cruisy tones sometimes made words difficult to distinguish!

Space junk is flying
And I'm goin' to go and get me some
It will be so easy
And I'll have a beautiful pile

Collection is easy
Direction is hard to find
Time is the healer

Somewhere I'll hide it
Maybe on the mellow moon
Someday I'll go and find it
Sell it for a fortune back home

Collection is easy
Direction is hard to find
Time is the healer

In the end of course I never made it
Cos I could never find a hollow moon
Space junk junk is still flying
And I'm waiting just for you to be

Collection is easy
Direction is hard to find
Time is the healer

And I'm still stuck out here
Searching for a better world

And I'm still stuck out here
Searching for a better world

And I'm still stuck out here
Searching for a better world


The song draws on the idea that space junk is collectible and valuable, just like the pieces of Skylab which scattered itself over Western Australia in 1979. It's junk in orbit, but a precious souvenir of space back on Earth. 

This makes me think about the definition of space junk and how it varies depending on where the fragment or defunct satellite is located between Earth and Earth orbit. For example, a returned spacecraft in a museum is not seen as junk because it is performing a function - communicating space science to the public.  A collected piece of junk also has a function for the person who owns it. It's a physical object that evokes the vastness of space and makes the person feel connected to it. Anything spaceflown has a magical pull for the Earthbound.

In the song, the space junk is also a compass for finding one's way in the universe. It's come to a final resting place, and its collector looks to it to provide a thread to the sky where perhaps a better world awaits. The space junk can't fulfil this role, though.

I like the way the song moves from the slightly facetious idea that a fortune can be made from selling space trash to the more melancholy reflection of being stuck on Earth still searching for a path.

I've been humming this song for days. Go Bats!