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Europe signs $102M deal to bring space trash home

1967: The Outer Space Treaty, signed on Jan. 27, 1967, by more than 60 nations, comes into force. The treaty represents the basic legal framework of international space law. Among its principles, it bars treaty signers from placing nuclear weapons or any other weapons of mass destruction in orbit of Earth, installing them on the moon or any other celestial body, or to otherwise station them in outer space. The treaty also explicitly forbids any government from claiming a celestial resource such as the moon or a planet, claiming that they are the common heritage of mankind.
1967: The Outer Space Treaty, signed on Jan. 27, 1967, by more than 60 nations, comes into force. The treaty represents the basic legal framework of international space law. Among its principles, it bars treaty signers from placing nuclear weapons or any other weapons of mass destruction in orbit of Earth, installing them on the moon or any other celestial body, or to otherwise station them in outer space. The treaty also explicitly forbids any government from claiming a celestial resource such as the moon or a planet, claiming that they are the common heritage of mankind. (FreeImages.com/bruno sersocima)

BERLIN – The European Space Agency says it is signing a 86 million-euro ($102 million) contract with a Swiss start-up company to bring a large piece of orbital trash back to Earth.

The agency said Thursday that the deal with ClearSpace SA will lead to the “first active debris removal mission” in 2025, in which a custom-made spacecraft will capture and bring down part of a rocket once used to deliver a satellite into orbit.

Experts have long warned that hundreds of thousands of pieces of space debris circling the planet — including an astronaut's lost mirror — pose a threat to functioning satellites and even the International Space Station. Several teams are working on ways to tackle the problem.

The object being removed from orbit is a so-called Vespa payload adapter that was used to hold and then release a satellite in 2013. It weighs about 112 kilograms (247 pounds).