All hail Jules Verne, French author and fin-de-siecle politician, the father of science fiction, the creator of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Around the World in Eighty Days, and Journey to the Center of the Earth. And, as of yesterday, the inspiration for the first in a new class of space garbage transports developed by the European Space Agency, the Jules Verne ATV.
The ATV stands for “Automated Transfer Vehicle,” not All-Terrain Vehicle which I think Verne would have preferred. For months, the Jules Verne has dutifully supplied the International Space Station (ISS) with water, oxygen, and cargo, and propellant. It has gently nuzzled the ISS into higher orbit. Then, last week, astronauts loaded it with 2.5 tons of trash and human waste and instructed the craft to immolate itself in the Earth’s atmosphere.
This part, at least, was as spectacular and luminous as a Vernian novel. As for choosing Verne’s name for the newest craft in expensive waste management, I don’t get it. Why not the Tony Soprano ATV ?