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A space clean-up odyssey: a note from the editor

From the mission to clear space junk to frost teas from the Nilgiris, this issue of Lounge has something for everyone

Millions of pieces of debris are orbiting Earth, a sort of massive swirling garbage dump in space. (iStock)

Rockets a launching/ Sat’lites are orbiting/ Explosions in Space/ Oh what a waste.../ When things collide/ Their debris do multiply...

It’s not much in terms of poetry but it’s US space agency Nasa’s cheery start to a rather alarming explanation of the problem of space junk, or the dead satellites, pieces of rockets and spacecraft, even equipment astronauts have dropped, and the risk it poses to future space missions. The Indian Space Research Organisation, along with other agencies and startups, has a foot in the race to clean up space, which is what our cover story this week explores. Millions of pieces of debris are orbiting Earth, a sort of massive swirling garbage dump in space. This high-speed garbage often collides with newer satellites and rockets, causing considerable and expensive damage. And contrary to what we imagine, space isn’t finite—at least not the low Earth orbit where most of our communications, weather and other satellites are, along with the International Space Station. The challenge space scientists from various countries face is to keep a ribbon of space clear and safe for missions of the future, as Nasa’s attempt at rhyme points out.

Poetry of the more serious kind is something author André Aciman discusses with Lounge, saying that a failed or a would-be poet has an ear for the cadences of language, which is what really makes their sentences surprise and delight. Aciman, best known for his novel Call Me By Your Name, says his sentences are “wide enough for you to slip into…you cannot leave because the rhythm carries you along”. The writer, who fancied himself a poet until he decided he was better suited to prose, has come out with a new book of essays studying our relationship with the present tense. “Everybody,” he says, “wants to live intensely in the present tense but we don’t know how to.”

There’s more reading material in this issue—a review of Kannada writer UR Ananthamurthy’s novel Avasthe in translation, a discussion with Harsh Mandar on his new book Locking Down The Poor, a review of artist Aditi Singh's new work that draws from observing nature; for foodies, we’ve got a piece on fermentation and food, and a list of frost teas from the Nilgiris to warm you up this season.

Write to the Lounge editor shalini.umachandran@htlive.com @shalinimb

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