The year 2016 saw progress in our colonization of the solar system: Earthlings got a selfie from Rosetta and Philae at comet Churi, feted the return of three astronauts from the International Space Station (ISS) in September, and tasked Osiris-Rex with collecting samples on Bennu, one of the many asteroids orbiting around the sun. This project of primarily scientific ambitions (planetologists hope to collect between 60 g and 2 kg of dust) is bound to whet certain appetites and fuel certain dreams. Meantime, it’s a taste of what space might look like in the not-so-distant future: a heavy traffic zone. First we need to clear the stratosphere of all the debris that has been accumulating over the course of the past 60 years since the launch of the first artificial satellite, “traveling companion” Sputnik 1. Some have estimated the number of space junk items at a minimum of 500,000. The Japanese aerospace agency JAXA sent a prototype, a long stainless steel electrodynamic tether, to the ISS, to collect the clutter. If it ever works, engineers reckon we’ll need massive nets (between 5 and 10 km long) to tackle this herculean task.