There were a few busy days on the International Space Station. The orbiting lab has just received a new charge from Earth (launched last week with a SpaceX Falcon 9), and the crew is busy unpacking all the new toys and materials they've just received. They also sent a Russian cargo ship to pack, but it will not actually return to Earth.
In the early morning, the docking compartment on the Russian section of the ISS released the Progress 72 cargo ship, which stopped about four months ago. It was shipped with all the supplies for the crew, and when it was released, it was literally full of garbage.
Like any home or office, the International Space Station is collecting a lot of garbage that is no longer needed by its residents. There is no garbage collection in space, so the scientists use docked cargo ships aboard, such as the Progress 72 spacecraft, to pick up their garbage.
There are many ways to dispose of garbage here on earth, from recycling to new material by disposing of it in a landfill (ew) or burning it. The cool thing about the ISS is that it has access to one of the largest incinerators imaginable in the Earth's atmosphere.
When spacecraft (or rocks or satellites or anything else) come into contact with the Earth's atmosphere, they create a strong friction that ignites intense flames and often destroys what is happening. The spaceship Progress 72 is no different, and since the spaceship is dispensable, it serves as a perfect trash can.
Russia's Pirs Docking Compartment Port was opened today at 6:44 pm EDT when cargo ship Progress 72 (72P) dropped off its dock for a four-month stay in the orbital lab. It will return to Earth's atmosphere laden with garbage and discarded material for fiery but safe disposal over the Pacific Ocean Source: NASA