The STS-115 shuttle astronauts have efficiently and successfully installed a new 17 ton section of the International Space Station and deployed its solar panels. They have one more EVA this morning to complete a few miscellaneous tasks. Great stuff - but the big news in the popular media seems to be the two bolts that were accidentally lost on two earlier EVA's, slightly increasing the amount of "space junk" in Earth orbit.
Of course space junk is a real problem, something we will have to deal with more in the future as space commerce increases the level of activity in Earth orbit. Someday there might even be specialists in space junk removal, maybe something like the characters in the Japanese anime Planetes, which I learned about from a recent article at the Space Review.
I was intrigued enough to order a copy of the first DVD in the series (used through Amazon), and I watched a couple of episodes the other night. Although I studied and used Japanese for some 20 years (roughly from 1981 to 2001) and visited Japan many times, I never really got much into Japanese manga (comics) and anime (animated cartoons). In fact this was the first anime DVD I ever bought.
Planetes takes place around 2075 when extensive commerce is taking place in space. It concerns the exploits of a space station-based "space debris removal team," and seems to focus most (in the first two episodes) on the frustrations and interpersonal problems of the crew members in this under-appreciated and under-funded "half section." The space setting is pretty much taken for granted, which is the case in much of the space-based SF that I like, and the spacecraft and operations are interesting and somewhat realistic and plausible. The characters and situations are OK, although the main female character is frankly annoying in most of her scenes (I'm watching the English dubbed version, though it would probably make sense for me to listen to the Japanese with English subtitles as a way to get a little Japanese refresher).
I plan to watch the rest of the five episodes on this volume and also view some of the bonus materials (e.g., interviews with real space debris experts at NASA). I don't see myself getting hooked and buying the other five volumes, but it's an intriguing medium for showing what near-future space operations could be like in a fairly realistic (though dramatized) fashion.