The Death Star's trash compactor may have been implausible, but it was on the right path towards solving a very real problem: space junk.
Scientists at NASA are testing ways to reduce space waste by compacting and heating debris to the point where it melts but doesn't incinerate, reducing garbage by 10 times its original size and squeezing out any salvageable water they can. Plus, the high level of plastic packaging in astro-garbage means that not only are these pucks easier to stow, they're also potentially effective against radiation — something that poses a big problem for manned missions to Mars, which could take at least two years round trip.
With just one day's worth of garbage, the on-board compactor can produce small, circular trash tiles 20cm wide and 1cm thick, meaning they could be used to reinforce astronaut's sleeping quarters (among other heavily trafficked areas).
Scientist's are still determining whether heat sterilises the discs, so strips of bacterial spores have been embedded in test tiles to explore the process's effectiveness. And so far results have been promising The potential emergence of any trash-dwelling, carnivorous giant squids, however, remains to be seen. [Space.com]